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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Improvements to GouletPens.com's Swab Shop

Saturday: Goulet Pen Co. Stuff- Swab Shop Improvements

A special thanks goes to my incredibly smart, talented (and patient!) wife Rachel, whose incredible computer wizardry allows this Swab Shop to even be possible.

If you've never seen the Swab Shop, you have to go and check it out. It's an interactive ink swab comparison tool that my wife and I put together to allow you to see color-adjusted ink swabs of all of the fountain pen inks we have available at GouletPens.com.

Interactive Tool

We originally set up the Swab Shop to be an individual ink color comparison tool. Here's the original setup:



We're now calling this feature the 'Interactive Tool'. It's a pretty simple setup, you select any ink color you want to see from the five drop-downs, and you can compare 5 inks at a time. The idea was that if you have a color you know and love, you could find one comparable to it with this tool. For example, say you really like Caran d'Ache Amazon, but it's a little pricey to be your daily ink. If you want to find something comparable, you might pull these up:



This worked well for a while, when we only had about 150 ink colors. We now carry around 300 inks, many of which have names that are not even suggestive to their colors. Looking at a list of 300 names and trying to find a 'green' proves quite challenging at times. So we wanted to add a way to view like colors on a single page. Thus......

View By Color Group

Using the same color-adjusted swabs, we wanted to lay out entire groups of colors to make it easy to narrow down your ink color search if you're just looking for a 'type' of color. Viewing the whole page can give you an idea of the names of the individual inks in that color range, then you can use the Interactive Tool to view those specific colors you want to compare side-by-side. We've listed these in a general order according to the hue of the ink, not in any particular brand/name order:



We have 11 different color groups:
  • Blacks and greys
  • Blue-blacks and dark blues
  • Blues
  • Browns
  • Greens
  • Pinks
  • Purples
  • Reds
  • Turquoises
  • Yellows and Oranges
  • Highlighters and Invisibles
You can navigate to any one of these groups from any other color group page by just clicking on the color at the top of the screen:



Now when you're comparing 25 different black inks, you won't be flustered with a limit of viewing 5 inks at a time! But of course we wanted to take this a step further too. If you are loyal to a certain brand and want to shop within it, we have pages laid out for each brand of ink as well....

View By Ink Brand

This is perhaps even more exciting than the View By Color Group pages, because there are some brands (like Noodler's) where there is no color sheet available for the brand. Some brands like J. Herbin and Private Reserve do provide color images of their ink colors (though I can't speak to what degree they have been adjusted for computer viewing). In general, though, it is hard to find a comprehensive single-location where an entire brand of ink colors could be viewed (I should say, WAS hard to find until now!).

So we're pleased to announce that we've grouped together all of our ink brands so you can view the entire line of inks (at least that are available through us) on a single page. Like so:



'Add to Cart' Buttons:

We have two other features as well that are somewhat recent additions to the Swab Shop. One is the 'add sample to cart' button. If you're on the Interactive Tool page, you'll notice there is a yellow button beneath each swab that says 'add sample to cart'. Clicking this will add one 2ml ink sample into your shopping cart, and you won't even have to navigate away from the Swab Shop! The other button labeled 'add bottle to cart' will add the most popular size of ink bottle (if multiple sizes are available for that color) to your cart without navigating away from the page. Both of these buttons are currently only on the swabs on the Interactive Tool page, but we're working on getting them available on the View by Color Group and View by Ink Brand pages, too.


We do have some swabs still to add, so please be patient on those! This whole thing takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, so patience is key. We're doing innovative things like this in our 'spare time' when we're not running the daily GPC operations, tending to our teething 10-month old, or doing other reviews and updates for Ink Nouveau.

Hopefully, all of these changes we've made will only enhance your experience on our Swab Shop and GouletPens.com. The Swab Shop is a completely free tool that we provide to you, so we encourage you to share it with all of your inky friends. We're always looking to enhance what we can do for the writing community, so please post here in the comments if you have any suggestions for improvements we can make for the Swab Shop (or any other thing we do!).

15 comments:

  1. I appreciate this awesome and very user-friendly ink swab display! Excellent job, Rachel! And, thank you too, Brian, for your consistent efforts to get all the latest pen/ink/paper information out there.

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  2. Way cool! This will be a geat aid.
    You guys are head and shoulders above anyone else.

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  3. Great job Brian and Rachel! I thought the Swab Shop was great before, this is fantastic.

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  4. Geepers, Rachel! That was a ton of work. I bet you've been working your spare time for quite a while on that, unless there's a God send of a template somewhere - even then I bet it would have to be highly modified for this particular use.

    Congrats on the labor! It is paying off!

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  5. The Swab Shop has always been one of the coolest ink-related things on the Internet. I didn't think it could be improved, but you've done it. Y'all are good.

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  6. Thanks guys! Nope, no templates, just straight up HTML. Took me the better part of yesterday afternoon/evening to do, not including the time Brian spent preparing the images for me. Still have more colors to add... they're scanned in, hoping to color-adjust them today and get them up soon.

    Out of curiosity, how is the load time? Do the images come up pretty quickly or do you have to sit there waiting for a while? Any bugs/problems so far?

    And would you like to see buttons to add samples or bottles to your cart directly from the individual Color Group and Ink Brand pages? Or do you see using these primarily as reference tools only? Thanks!

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  7. Rachel,
    The load times are blazing fast for me, no delay at all. I love what you've done so far!

    If your looking for more ideas, I'de love to see some buttons on the by brand and by color pages that would allow me to add to my cart from there or preload the interactive tool with colors to compare.

    When I'm buying ink, I either start knowing what I want to try based on someones recomendation or I start with a color I want to try and start narrowing it down by comparing similar colors.

    I have also used the swap shop to explain color and brand ranges many many times, theres nothing like showing someone the differance between a gray brown and a red brown for example.

    Keep up the great work guys!!!

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  8. Rachel, you are a jewel! Very nice work. Loads very quickly for us and will be used a lot I'm sure! Thank you for your efforts.

    I agree adding the buy buttons all around would be good if/when you have the time.

    Hope Joseph's teething isn't driving you too nuts...

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  9. Rachel this is amazing. Thank you for your tireless efforts!

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  10. This is an awesome tool. You guys have done a great service for the fountain community.

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  11. Great job Brian and Rachel! I thought the Swab Shop was great before, this is fantastic.

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  12. Rachel this is amazing. Thank you for your tireless efforts!

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