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Company: Uline Shipping Supplies, Waukegan, Ill.
Target audience: Any business that ships packages
Key Web executive: Jake Peters, e-commerce director
No. of employees who work on the site: N/A
Last major redesign: 2004
No. of pages in site: More than 10,000
Uline may serve a specialized niche—shipping supply products such as boxes, packing materials and tape–but its Web site has become a shining example for any company of how to build a straightforward, easy-to-navigate online catalog.
The site employs a clean, no-nonsense design that includes many tabs and links that take visitors immediately to what they’re looking for, whether it’s to access their account or browse overstock items. Users can search products by standard keyword or advanced modes—by size, color or usage—or by a “Catalog Quick Order” button. Product pages link to buying guides and usage instructions, and visitors can even check to make sure a product is in stock.
The check-out process is similarly simple, and Uline says it’s backed by real-time processing and seamless integration with the call center if a customer has a question about an order in progress. There’s also a live-chat function for anyone wanting to be taken step by step through the ordering process.
Once users have set up an account and placed an order, they can check the status from the home page. On the account page, they can search past orders by post office, order number, items ordered and product categories. Customers can even elect to be e-mailed reorder reminders and have their shopping carts automatically loaded with the products.
This year completely updated its product pages, and it shows. Photos are bigger and clearer, and the product charts perfectly mirror the print catalog, making for a seamless shopping transition. A new feature allows users to upload their corporate logo to order customized mailing labels and security seals—and the company promises more customization features in the future.
—Roger Slavens

Shane Ginsberg:
“A straight-up, professional-grade site. Commercial shipping supplies stripped down to the e-commerce essentials: convenience, rich product detail, simplicity. The site makes a b-to-b line to transaction. Also, the online ordering estimated delivery time is great.”
Jakob Nielsen: “This site uses photos to a great benefit. You know instantly that they do shipping supplies, but then they have pictures of mailing tubes and boxes. It’s good, and clear and to the point. Plus, all the different categories are called things that make sense. Click on Shrink Wrap and you see shrink wrap.There’s also pricing; a lot of b-to-b sites make it hard to figure out what things cost. It’s very rare to see someone who brings it all together like this.”

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