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2009 has arrived: A new look for Competitive Cyclist

What started as a small effort in summer 2008 to upgrade the functionality of our website became a considerably larger labor of love. The net result now, nearly 7 months later, is the biggest upgrade to our site in almost 4 years. It looks different, and it has a good bit of added functionality to make surfing and shopping easier than ever before. And that was our ultimate goal: To make your Competitive Cyclist experience better in every way. By design, these changes aren’t disruptive to the familiar look & operation of our site. And, admittedly, in many cases we were just catching up with the times. You can rest assured that we’ve made these changes without altering any of our most popular pages, e.g. the Fit Calculator, the Kit Calculator, the Gruppo Calculator, or the Photo Gallery. The highlights:

1. Navigate by brand. Formerly you could only navigate by product category. In other words, if you wanted to look at Assos bib shorts, you had to navigate Apparel > Shorts/Bibs > Assos. Now we’ve added a ‘Shop by Brand’ link at the top of the page to make locating allproducts of your favorite brands easier than ever.

We did this for two reasons: (1) In studying the most popular search terms entered by customers into our internal search engine, we learned that 95% of the terms were brand names. Clearly, people have a good idea of what brands they’re looking for when they visit Competitive Cyclist. Our navigation needed to reflect this reality. (2) We wanted to make it easier for customers to review all products from a given brand, regardless if they were road-specific or mountain-specific. Before brand navigation, this wasn’t a possibility. Rather, you had to be on the road site to see Shimano road components, and you had to be on the mountain site to see Shimano mountain components. Now with brand navigation, you can see all product categories for a brand, whether they’re road or mountain.

2. Wider pages. When we launched the previous version of Competitive Cyclist roughly 4 years ago, the majority of our customers were using monitors with a resolution of 800×600, and we designed the site to fit comfortably in that space. Since then monitor sizes have increased to 1024×768 and larger, and sites are changing their width to accommodate this increase.

Our widened pages allow more options in the top navigation at the top of our pages. It also allows us to show larger photos. If you look at our bike photography, you’ll likely agree that the beauty of these photos has reached a new plateau. Our bike photos aren’t just wider, but the zoom window now opens down the page as well. It’s the best bike product photography on the web, and it’s the one place where we’re most guilty of the deadly sin of pride. And, lastly, the wider pages allow us to post a rotation of 4 banners on the bottom of the home page. Keep your eyes peeled for these banners -- it’s where we’ll announce sales and new product introductions. Our goal is to serve 20 different banners per week, and to change these on a weekly basis.

3. Sortable product menus. Once you visit a product category, e.g., Apparel > Men’s Short Sleeve Jerseys, you can still narrow down the results to one brand by clicking on the brand thumbnail on the right side of the page. But, additionally, now you can sort the entire category alphabetically, or by price (either $$$ to $, or $ to $$$), or by percentage discount. This allows you to most easily find the brands you prefer, or the price range you prefer, or to narrow a category down to on-sale items.

4. Virtually eliminated pop ups. And we don’t mean pop-up ads, but rather we’re referring to the way we formerly showed zoom images and other pieces of information like size charts. Previously, a new, smaller browser window would pop up with the zoom image or the size chart. Now it’s a substantially less-jarring experience thanks to the fact that a layer will arise on the page instead of a pop-up window. In writing this, it doesn’t sound like a big deal. But in terms of searching and shopping, it’s a heck of a lot more pleasant.

5. Ease of site jumping. Look at the left-most link on the upper navigation. If you’re on the road site it says ‘visit mtb site’, and if you’re on the mtb site it says ‘visit road site.’ We thought very, very, very long and hard about merging our road and mountain sites together. After extensive study, we recognized that the product selection and (perhaps more importantly) the culture of road and mountain are so different that merging them together wouldn’t be wise. Putting these links in the upper left hand corner makes jumping from site to site easier. And, just like before, if you have items in your cart on one site, they stay in the cart if/when you jump to the other site.

Those are the main highlights, though other things changed as well. This wasn’t an art project, but rather we wanted to make Competitive Cyclist a better site for you, our customers. If you see any bugs, or anything that just annoys you, please don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re hopeful that you’ll really like the changes.