Smith & Hawken

Reviewed October 25, 5:00 p.m., Explorer 4.5 (www.smithandhawken.com)

While many Websites load up their home pages with content, it’s refreshing to visit one such as Smith & Hawken that offers choices and information in a clean and simple format.

Five icons direct users to shopping, store listings, something called Resources (which includes recipes and other editorial), company info, and monthly highlights. I click on the Shop icon and am transported to an equally spare page featuring every merchandise category listed in sketchy, pine-green script against a sandy wash – attractive but difficult to read.

The site’s impressive depth of product makes up for this minor offense, however. So do the illustrations, the photography, and the copy. Product photos gleam crisply against white backgrounds. And copy such as “Forget what you’ve heard about temperament. Orchids are surprisingly easy to grow” is conversational, straightforward, and appealing.

The ordering process offers no unpleasant surprises, and the customer service icon leads me to the guarantee, the returns policies, the secure ordering form, and information about the company’s environmental practices. But Smith & Hawken drops the ball by not mentioning its privacy policy. (Even a site search turns up nothing on privacy!) This is a huge gaffe, and one that prevents me from ordering the metal olive wreath the site had almost convinced me to buy.

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