Three Website Design Tips from Knitter’s Review

Knitter’s Review is a six-year-old site run by a small group of enthusiasts. Their story in the About pages tells of publishing veteran Clara Parkes, who left the rat race where she produced large scale websites and escaped to the peace of rural Maine to focus on doing something she loved. She has two compatriots who represent the operational and technical ends of (KR), and the support of her friends, family and postmistress, but not much else. In other words, a true hands-on, do-it-yourself success story.

The success of the site is readily apparent in the plethora of forum posts. This is the real deal, a community site that has been brought together via KR’s weekly editorial product reviews. The site makes its revenues through advertising and their own store. It is a true Mequoda network that is run without a large publishing company behind it—just good old-fashioned know-how.

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  • Editorial—Knitter’s Review Magazine
  • Ecommerce—Knitter’s Review Boutique
  • Community—Knitter’s Review Forum

Each of these sections of the network serve a different business purpose (selling advertising, selling products, bringing in traffic) and therefore require a specific site design and navigation. Since KR is relatively small, Terri Edmonston covers all three micro-sites in a single review and takes a look at some particular issues like global navigation, persistent navigation and branding.

Here are three website design tips Terri pulled from her review:

  1. While the site maintains a high level of content quality with extensive, free and unbiased information, there is still a lot of growing room to fully take advantage of the interactivity made easy by Web technology. For example, as of this writing the “First Audio Report from the 2006 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival” was available on the site. If KR turned this into a regular podcast, or even a videopodcast, it would expand audience reach.
  2. A forum is a great way to create community without breaking the bank on development costs. With private messages and IM integrated into the forum, there are plenty of ways for the far flung to start close conversations. The score is only a B here, because the forum isn’t well promoted across the network.
  3. In an effort to be helpful, the site links many of the words in an article to an outside website. This isn’t even a new window-it’s in the same browser window and all of a sudden the poor user finds themselves looking at a definition of an Ewe on Wikipedia, or even worse, on a totally different knitting site. While encyclopedia definitions and related articles (even from competitors) are nice additions, the link should visually indicate to the user that clicking it will take them off of KR.

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