New Web Design
You can tell a lot about the quality & health of a local business by their website (or worse - the lack of one). Nicol Street Pawnbrokers is customer-oriented and is committed to the long-term growth of their business. This is demonstrated by their investment in a professionally-designed website.
Located in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Nicol Street Pawnbrokers is more than your normal, run-of-the-mill Canadian pawn shop. They are a diverse, family-run business that works hard to create a unique and personalized shopping experience for their Vancouver Island customers. The management team knows that their website is more than a glorified calling-card - it's the future of business.
The Nicol Pawn website went live in May 2010. Over the first year, it grew. They added a Pawn Blog, then a Paintball Website and finally a Paintball Blog. Readership also grew - from a modest 200 visits per month to over a thousand.
Before the first year was up, the owners hired the international design firm AstonishMe! to integrate and redesign their four websites. The new design can now be seen on the Nicol Pawn Home Page. Nicol Pawn and its customers will benefit from the new design. It's clean, professional, great-looking, easy to navigate and it is built with many special features and the future in mind.
About the Design
Inspiration for the page layout came from a WordPress template by Brain Buzz Media. The North American AstonishMe! team improved on this template, adding specialized CSS-rollover elements, custom graphics and integrated navigation.
Integration of the four Nicol Pawn websites is accomplished easily with two main navigation areas: one at the top right of every page and one in the lower left. This allows visitors to quickly and easily navigate to and from any of the 4 websites - from any page - and any Nicol Pawn website.
Revolving banners and front-page content blocks, which all link to relevant content, show first-time visitors that Nicol Street Pawn is much more than just a pawn shop. This motto is also visible as text above the fold: "NSP is more than a pawn shop". (This motto links to the Nicol Street Paintball website, as way of proof.) The banners and content also alert customers to current special promotions, the wide variety of Nicol Pawn services and other important - actionable - items.
A custom 3-state search form is also positioned prominently (above the fold). Just type in your keyword search term(s) and hit "enter" on your keyboard. All four of the Nicol Street Pawn websites are searched at one time, leaving nothing to chance.
The footer is filled with a wealth of information:
An easy-to-use contact form means that contacting Nicol Street is easy. Just type in your name, email and what you want to ask (or say) & hit "send". The form will be available on EVERY page!
The footer provides an easy way for Nicol Street Pawn customers and web visitors to keep up with "What's New" (Across all 4 Nicol Pawn websites and within the 'Pawn Stars' Blog). For those customers who want to be the first to know about what's new, Nicol Pawn offers four social networking action items: Subscribe by e-Mail, RSS Feed, FaceBook or Twitter.
Under the Hood
AstonishMe! are experts at utilizing blogging engines for business websites and the Nicol Street Pawnbrokers site is a good example. Every one of the four Nicol Pawn "websites" are in fact, separate blogs - all running on a single installation of an Open Source Blogging Application.
Blogs are a wonderful way for businesses to interact and communicate with their visitors and customers.
Blogs are a great CMS. What does this mean? Blogs come with an easy-to-use administration panel (back office) that allows businesses to manage and add their own content. The web pages generated by a blogging application can be styled & designed to look like - and act like - regular, static business websites (like Nicol Pawn).
By way of example, the redesigned "Home Page" for Nicol Street Pawnbrokers is simply a single blog entry. AstonishMe! designed it so that it can be easily changed by Nicol Street Pawn owners. "Hidden" on the every page is a 'log-in' link to the back office, where company personnel can add web pages, blog posts, images, transfer files and perform other administrative functions.
Blogs are also great for Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Used properly, a business can communicate their passion and expertise directly to their customers - in the privacy and comfort of the customer's own home. Blogs provide a steadily-growing body of relevant information, which is periodically "crawled" (visited) by search engine "spiders" (applications). This helps such businesses float to the top of Internet searches! (As proof, search Google for "paintball history splotchmarker", which - at the time of writing - yields 8,910,000 results. See who's number two?)
The initial roll-out of the new design affects only the Nicol Pawn Home Page. Eventually, all the interior pages will be included in the design, as well as the other three websites (Pawn Blog, Paintball Site & Paintball Blog). The new design will provide seamless integration of these four websites and is build with the future in mind (infinite expansion possibilities).