December 3, 2008, 12:00 AM

Attention to detail helps Action Envelope lick design problems

Extensive use of rich media and other design changes are creating more business for Action Envelope, an online envelope retailer. In the first month after a revised went live, envelope sales doubled to about $1 million.

Extensive use of rich media and other design changes are creating more business for Action Envelope, an online envelope retailer.

The updated now has one tab for paper and another for envelopes across the top navigation bar, which helps to keep the home page design clean. When a visitor’s mouse hovers over the envelopes category, a pop-up box appears that offers a variety of options, including business and social envelopes, shipping and packaging products, and most popular items. Within the same box, visitors can choose to shop by color, collection, style and use, or to select such services as express printing, high-volume direct mail envelopes or custom envelopes.

Another tab on the top navigation bar called My Account lets a returning customer log in, see his previous five orders and click on a reorder button that takes him directly to the shopping cart. Several rounds of testing confirmed what consumers and small businesses wanted most: a fast and sophisticated process to order envelopes. “People don’t want to spend their entire day reordering envelopes. They want to order the envelopes and move on,” chief operating officer Seth Newman says. “We’re trying to help them do that.”

For some customers, color is the key if they’re shopping for envelopes such as for a wedding with a distinctive color scheme. A new shop-by-color option above the fold on Action Envelope’s home page lets a customer move a slider to choose the color she wants, with the full spectrum of envelope colors moving horizontally across the page as the visitor drags the slider with her mouse. When the customer chooses a particular hue, such as bright orange, the page shows thumbnails of all 18 envelopes that Action Envelope sells in that color. The color selector, which was built using Ajax, or asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is an example of how the new Action Envelope web site makes use of recent advances in web design technology, says Alex Schmelkin, president of Alexander Interactive, which has worked with Action Envelope on its last two site redesigns.

When Action Envelope, No. 439 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, was last redesigning its site in 2004, he says, horizontal sliders were cumbersome and hard to use. But the new slider moves as easily as if the consumer were pushing it with her finger. “We love this way of doing it,” Schmelkin says. “People understand rainbows and it’s a very easy visual metaphor to let people scroll across different colors, stopping on the one they like, clicking on it and seeing the complementary colors around it.”

The latest redesign took Action Envelope 15 months and about $200,000 to complete. It is paying off in more business, Newman says. In the first month after the revised went live, envelope sales doubled to about $1 million and the conversion rate on some envelope styles improved by over 40%. “We knew how customers wanted to use our site and we knew what we had to do to meet those expectations,” says Newman. “Having a formal working document helped us to meet some tight deadlines and stay within our budget.”

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