Web Mender

An incessant whine on web design.

May 10, 2002

StopattheShop.com's Horrible Reliance on Graphics

A small chain of audio/video stores burdens its web site with graphics to the point where search engines would have a harder time finding it!

The Stereo Shop operates three stores in the suburbs of Rochester, New York. In person, they offer a pleasant alternative to the gigantic box stores, with a terrific lifetime service guarantee. On the web, the story changes.

With a name as generic as "The Stereo Shop", choosing a domain for the web site becomes a bit more of a challenge. Their solution, and it's a good one, is to use their slogan, which is repeated endlessly in their ubiquitous broadcast media advertising. Thus, StopAtTheShop.com. They've even lucked out with the search engine results, making the top ten for a Google search on "stereo shop". The absence of useful text on the page prevents Google from indicating where Stereo Shop is located, and adding "rochester" to the search actually makes them harder to find. If the store's physical addresses were written as text and not graphics, this problem would probably vanish.

When the area code crunch came around, Western New York was going to be divided. As luck would have it, Rochester and vicinity lost 716 to Buffalo and vicinity. This means web sites like the Stereo Shop's need to update to display 585 with their phone numbers. For a text-based site, that's a three-character change that can easily be done with search and replace. Since all of the contact information is in a graphic though, they'll have to call their designer, who will then have to remember exactly how that shadow effect is done, assuming they still have the same software. The graphics bind them with costly maintenance down the road for little changes like this.

Update: 2002-12-20

Yikes! Since I wrote this, the difficulty of finding Stereo Shop by Google search has skyrocketed. This article ranks in the top ten for searches of "stereo shop rochester" while the actual Stereo Shop site isn't even in the first hundred! I did find several other sites that mentioned Stereo Shop, including the resume of a former employee now doing web design in Pittsburgh. Searching Google only for "stereo shop" has it at #46.

In fairness, an AllTheWeb search of "stereo shop" has them in the top ten. Once again, adding "rochester" to the search makes them much harder to find.

Posted by ventura at May 10, 2002 11:07 PM