Harry and David’s Northwest Express

The Internet may be a high-tech shopping medium, but Northwest Express’s Website of gifts, home goods, and apparel is as earthy as a walk in the Oregon woods. Starting with the clean, pleasing graphics on the home page, which uses a subtle palette of sage, mauve, and taupe, the site exudes the easygoing yet sophisticated lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest.

Deeper into the Website, “the colors are bright, but not jarring,” notes a judge. Well-organized pages combine product shots with lifestyle photos so that the site flows like a photo album of a weekend mountain getaway. By keeping graphics to a minimum, the spare, contemporary layout speeds up load times while letting the company’s laid-back personality shine through by shifting the focus to the copy, which the judges agree is one of the site’s strongest suits.

As much as the photos, the copy luxuriates in the idea of life in the Northwest, with headings such as “Enjoy the fresh, woodsy scent of a pine forest.” Product descriptions also evoke fresh mountain air and crisp foliage; take this example, from a description of a quilt: “An heirloom quality piece…a blithe blending of textures, patterns, fresh greens and frolicsome leaves.”

The site’s wide range of products “makes for a cohesive, substantial offering,” says one judge. Icons for each shopping category direct users to specials such as sale items and gift certificates. The panelists also appreciate the online auction, though one notes that the selection of products up for auction is slim.

Another judge notes that while the navigation is “generally very good, I’d like to see better navigation within product categories. For example, there are nine items under `Home Products – Lighting.’ When I’m on the first product page, though, I don’t have any navigation bar that takes me directly to the other lighting items.” Instead, the user has to return to the overall product category page.

But Northwest Express offers plenty of customer service niceties to compensate for such navigational oversights. The judges especially appreciate a feature that enables customers to register for notification of upcoming sales, and they rave about the guarantee’s placement on the front page. “And the home page states that `express delivery is standard,'” enthuses one panelist. A detailed fit chart helps ensure that customers order the right size. All in all, the “folksy customer service presentation is appropriate and effective,” says a judge, adding that all shipping, pricing, and return policies are clearly stated.

Northwest Express’s attention to customers’ needs is clearly illustrated in the site’s fluidity and clean design. While the site offers a plethora of merchandise, the presentation of product is not cluttered or overwhelming. Northwest Express aims to introduce customers to the open, fresh lifestyle of mountain country. Its airy, bright Website is the first step on a trail of quality and service.

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