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Great Web Sites: www.armstrong.com

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www.armstrong.com
Company: Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa.
Target audience: Architects, designers, contractors, distributors, retailers, consumers
Key Web executive: Jesse Engle, general manager-eMarketing
No. of employees who work on the site: 20
Last major redesign: 2002
No. of pages in site: Approximately 50,000
It’s important for Armstrong to have a Web site that is as beautiful as the flooring, ceiling and cabinetry products it manufactures and markets. And Armstrong.com is indeed beautiful, filled with striking photographs and elegant navigation that make even a perfunctory browse a pleasure.
But the site’s true value goes much further. “Because of strong executive buy-in, Armstrong.com has become an online presence that reflects the company’s brand leadership position and confirms our belief that the Web is a critical customer touch point,” said Jesse Engle, general manager-eMarketing. “Our products are a high-consideration purchase, so everything we do online revolves around providing the resources our customers—architects, contractors, retailers and consumers—need to make a purchase they’ll be happy with.”
For all the aesthetic trappings, at the heart of the site is an efficient product catalog. “We are still manufacturers at the end of the day,” said Engle, who manages 20 employees in a centralized Web unit responsible for Armstrong’s global portfolio of products. However, it’s quite a stunning catalog that lets customers see how the products will look in a range of settings—including the spaces the customers are looking to furnish.
“We now have a feature where you can upload a photograph of your home or office and place our floorings in it,” he said. “Paint companies have been doing this kind of thing for a while, but it’s more difficult when you’re dealing with 3-D products instead of just color. The advances in imaging technology have finally let us do this.”
For corporate customers such as architects and retailers, Armstrong.com’s appeal goes beyond the visuals. “We’re doing everything to make their jobs easier, from making product specifications to online ordering,” Engle said. “And since we’re also finding that more and more consumers are making their decisions online, they’re spending less and less time in front of salesmen, which can save retailers a lot of money.”           
—Roger Slavens
EXPERT 2¢
Shane Ginsberg:
“Armstrong.com uses Flash very effectively to bring its product to life in the context of a customer’s room. The site is well organized and gives users multiple—and interesting—ways to experience the product catalog.”
Jakob Nielsen: “One thing I really like about the site is all the alternate ways you can access the product catalog. They have a huge number of floor coverings and you can go by type … but you can also go by color or can go by performance feature. … And finally they actually have a tool that can help you combine all the criteria so you can narrow down to only the floor coverings that match what you need. That’s a type of browsing by custom-oriented needs that’s often not found on b-to-b sites.”
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