Suunto Beta: Radical Redesign or Minor Facelift?

Suunto is heavily promoting their new beta site they expect to launch in early 2010. The tactic of launching a “beta” site available to anyone is typically done for two purposes:

  1. Build hype by allowing visitors to see the hot new thing that’s “coming soon”
  2. Builds the ability to say “sorry, it’s still in beta” any time someone finds a problem

Is the new beta site something to get excited over? Or is it just a big company trying to modernize their online presence without actually understanding the future of the web? Let’s take a look.

The Old Suunto Site

I always found the home page of the Suunto site a bit scattered and not always the easiest to find the core focus. Take a look:

Click to enlarge

For me, these are the biggest issues:

  • Their campaigns on the right look like ads. Sure, they’re for Suunto products, but they still look like ads.
  • The navigation gets lost. With all the boxes and washed out colors, I’d better hope what I’m looking for is in the featured box or in the ads on the right.
  • It looks like they probably had a modern site several years ago, then have just modified it slightly to keep up as trends evolved.

As we click through to see their SCUBA diving gear, I think it gets even worse. Only one product is highlighted and there appears to just be a bunch of random stuff thrown all over the place. The primary navigation isn’t consistent with what we saw on the home page either, which is odd. It just takes far too many clicks to get to the real meat.

The New Suunto Site

The new Suunto site appears to believe the mindset that dark = modern. They have pulled it off fairly well, specifically improving the navigation by making it easier to find and use and really highlighting their latest/greatest products. Take a look:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

My #1 biggest complaint with this site is that they used Flash for their featured content gallery despite the fact that A) most mobile browsers can’t view Flash and B) it’s completely unnecessary with some CSS/dHTML/AJAX programming.

As we click through to their SCUBA equipment, we get dive watches, dive watches and nothing but dive watches. This is a very good thing. The new compare option is nice and the product page navigation is clean, straightforward and easy to use, plus adding social sharing options shows at least a basic understanding of the concepts of Web 2.0.

The reason I say a basic understanding is they have done nothing to incorporate their Twitter or Facebook accounts. I’m not sure why, since they are actually doing a good job of interacting with SCUBA diving consumers on both social network.

I’m not sold on the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” box because it shows almost every other dive watch they carry, at least in my experiments. Don’t customers look for accessories for their products? Not according to this tool.

The Verdict

Overall, I am impressed with the changes Suunto plans to make on their web site.

  • Navigation and search is easier to find and more intuitive to use
  • Social sharing options is a nice, if not obvious improvement
  • The enhanced product prominence is excellent

The only improvements I would suggest before they pull the “beta” label off:

  • Promote the official Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • Remove the unneccessary Flash from the home page
  • Use search engine friendly product URL’s
  • Improve the usefulness of the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” box

Lessons for your SCUBA Web Site

  1. Make navigation and search easy to find and use
  2. Don’t use unnecessary technologies just for WOW-factor
  3. Always focus on search engine optimization
  4. Link all online activities

Great job Suunto, I look forward to the official launch!

What do you think?

Photo via Jamestiks

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