Quality of Forum Sponsors Web Pages

Hello Everyone,

I had a little time today and perused some of the forums sponsors web pages using the direct links found at the top of these pages.

After looking at some of them, I came away quite frustrated as in my opinion they are for the most part simply terrible wrt the organization and quality of the images of products being sold.

One sponsor, had his images so small that I was unable to really discern the makeup of the product.  So I simply passed and went to another website.  The product in question costs $1,100!!

The purpose of the websites is to entice people like us to BUY their products.  If that is the case then why are the images and layout of the website so poorly organized?  Many look like a 10 year old put it together.

Even some of the larger players have outdated website layouts that do not lend to finding desired products easily.

If you don't believe me, just randomly select a few and see for yourself.  

How they stay in business is beyond me as these websites are the face of the company and the products they are trying to market to us. 

I fully understand that maintaining and updating websites is costly, but think about how much business they are losing when a potential customer can't find what he is looking for with relative ease.

I am grateful that they are sponsoring this forum, but I do believe they can do a much better job of getting a professional looking website together than the mom and pop look some have today.

What are your thoughts?


C&O H8 Allegheny: The heaviest & most powerful bad boy to ever traverse any rail.

Original Post

Some of them ARE mom and pop. That means it's expensive to host a website and sometimes file size restrictions come into play where a larger image sometimes isn't possible. 

I've noticed a few that if I click through here it is different than if I go directly to their web url.

I click through often and don't run into many problems. The hardest one to find anything, to me is Charles Ro and they could be one of the biggest. I've almost never found what I was looking for there and went somewhere else.

All in all they are great for being sponsors and we should cut them some slack. 

USMC 1966-69

I don't disagree that there are some pretty lousy websites. However, it may be incorrect to assume that a forum sponsor's primary goal is to increase Internet sales.

If you are using this forum, and reading this post, you may very well believe that online abstinence is a mental disorder. This may be shocking, but many excellent train stores have no website whatsoever, and they couldn't care less.  Some have a customer base consisting primarily of an older demographic that prefers a brick and mortar shopping experience that consists of good customer service and support. These folks eschew the Internet, and refuse to shop online. What rationale exists for these companies to invest the time and expense to market new products through online channels, when they cannot reasonably compete with larger online retailers who enjoy the competitive advantage of higher volumes or a direct sales relationship with manufacturers? Why should they go to such trouble to court "online" shoppers who make decisions solely on the basis of least cost? Indeed, they may not want to attract this type of customer: the types who buy on Amazon, and then appear at their store looking for a cheap repair job.




If the website is not very easy to look at and find product then I will never even think of buying from them. 

I don't have the time to use a outdated web site. Most of my train buying is online and yes I shop for price. I am also 71 and resent people who say the older buyer don't want to use the Internet . I now have time to look online and if the dealer cannot or will not keep up a good web site then don't expect my business. 


Also who Are the shops that have no web site and could care less if they did, How would anybody know if the even existed. Want to stay in business? You have to cater to the customer and that means in today's market, have a viable web site. 

I work part time at Milepost 38 Toy Trains, and I can say for certain if we did not have a website we would be either gone or in real trouble, regardless of the customer base we already have. Businesses have to adapt in some way to survive, you can't do things completely the old-fashioned way. That said, we do most of our sales as brick and mortar with a few ebay stores supporting. We still do things somewhat the old-fashioned way with no direct online sales other than ebay, but not completely the old-fashioned way. The website and social media accounts let potential customers know we exist and are open for business to serve them.  I think the most important thing about having a social media account/website these days is that you can post hours that are different than usual and get in touch with potential and repeat customers. That way nobody complains about driving all the way to the store and finding out hours were changed. 

So often the business world is compared to the animal kingdom, and it's true. If you don't adapt, sorry dude, you die.

From what I have seen not many companies have good looking websites, and even the ones that do are not very well built. There are many examples where a web developer (someone who codes/develops websites) can build really simple but great looking websites that don't take up much space 5.00 MB or less. Some websites are pure hideous since the implement old standards that are no longer standards. I am almost certain that if you looked at the analytics for any of these poorly designed websites you would see that not many people stay on the website for long. I am not even skimming the real issue since many of us now use mobile devices to view websites, and if not coded properly the website won't be responsive (wont look good on different screen sizes) and will look horrible on a small screen. 

That is all for now,


Rich Melvin posted something a few years back that I thought was a good read- it was specific to websites. The importance of organization, as well as photos- but the point that struck me most was photos that linked folks off of their website. There were sites out there that when you clicked for more information, took you to the manufacturer site. 
I spend almost no time (currently) online shopping for trains, but I do when work slows down and have noticed the same things pointed out in some of the posts above. If you want to really call me guilty, I spend about an hour per month in the summer even on OGR forum! (GASP!)  That changes come cooler weather, so please don't call the cops on me. 

Don't take it too serious- they're just toys...

Good websites today are cheap and easy to put together.  You don't need to higher web designers and programmers to put these together.  Many companies offer templates and hosting for minimal cost.  There is a plethora of options.  Quick books and others offer eCommerce solutions which are affordable and tie directly to their financial management systems.  It's not rocket science.

I think that having a really good professional website requires a lot of moving parts behind the pages.   Inventory control, ordering process including ability to return products, quality photos and descriptions of products.  IMO a critical tool for any website is a really good search utility.  If a user can't find a product that is actually in stock then that is a lost sale.    In addition, the owner needs to be able to view a variety of reports that will tell him/her what is selling, how many, etc, etc.

Clearly the interface to the users needs to be logical, clean and well organized and presented.  None of these things are easy to accomplish for a non web-designer. 

As for our sponsor's websites - many of them are small companies and the reality of overall limited $$$ v.s. Webpage design $$$ is a harsh reality.    Sure there are some sites that could use some help.   But my experience with sponsor sites has been good.  I generally can find what I am interested in and if I can't find it and I think they may have it I just call them to find out.  I have never been disappointed when I needed to call for info.


GVDobler posted:

The hardest one to find anything, to me is Charles Ro and they could be one of the biggest. I've almost never found what I was looking for there and went somewhere else.

I think that is because for some reason Charles Ro doesn't use the manufacturer item number, it seems they have their own little tweak they use.

As many have mentioned, some web sites are tough to navigate or their search tree was designed by someone who never actually tried to use it. While a fancy site may be too expensive for a small business to have, if you can at least find them on the web you can call which many times has gotten us an item that web site searches didn't come up with.

IMHO both dealers and manufacturers could increase sales if they prioritized 2 features of their websites:  Search function and quality pictures.   Unfortunately if the manufacturer does not provide quality pictures, it's impractical for the dealer to unbox items and take their own pictures.  I would hope that the manufacturers would provide the dealers with pictures and descriptions in a database form that could be easily uploaded to the dealers site, rather than manually cutting/pasting.  My expectations might be too high. 

Search functions ideally should allow for multiple key words and filters (manufacturer, scale, product line, type of loco or car, road name, etc).  Detailed browsing trees should be available as well.  Searches that return no results or 300 results are both useless.   I just tried a search for Milwaukee S3 on a manufacturer site.  The results included out of production engines in old catalogs, but not the new, currently available engines.  I needed to search for Milwaukee Northern to pick up the new production.  This is probably a case of not providing the correct key words for the item.  

I also like when a site displays "in stock" status.   If you only show 1 in stock, you may even scare me into ordering!

Yes, this is work for the manufacturer or dealer.  But if you make it easier for the customer, you will get more sales.   


Over the last few days I have been reviewing our advertiser and hobby shop dealer accounts as we move to a new on line accounting system. In that process, I had to confirm all our advertisers and dealers web sites and email addresses. During that process, I saw many sites where the owners had not invested much time or effort into building a good web site. Some didn't even have a web store!

I saw many web site owners who do not understand how to control web traffic and send their web visitors to the pages within their site that they want them to see. For example, it makes no sense to have a manufacturers logo on your home page, with a link to that manufacturers web site. You got someone to visit your web site, and then you send them off to some other web site elsewhere on the internet? That reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of what a web site is for, yet I saw several sites like that in my recent work.

In today's on line world, investing money in a GOOD web site will yield huge returns. But many of the businesses in this hobby truly are small mom and pop businesses, and the owners may be older than the national average. They have run their businesses for decades without the internet, so they don't understand the big payoff in having a good web site with a good web store. You don't miss what you never had.

I once offered to build a web site for a local hobby shop. They had a great brick and mortar store, but no internet presence at all. I offered to build the web site for free just because I wanted to see this local shop succeed. The owner of the shop, who was over 70 years old at the time, asked me how he would get the orders that would come in off the web site. I explained that they would come in via email, with all the information in the email for the ordered items and the shipping information. His response was, "I don't want to have to check email every day." He didn't understand what the internet could do for his sales, but he DID understand that checking his email was an unpleasant task because the technology was new to him. Consequently that site never got built.

A couple of years later, the owner tried to sell the store and retire, but business levels had dropped so low that he had no takers. With only local, walk-in trade supporting the store and no web presence, a new owner would have had a huge hill to climb to make the store profitable. Predictably, the store is now closed and gone.

Those business owners who understand the internet and have built good web sites reap the rewards of that effort. And it is a HUGE effort, in both time and money. It takes thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to produce good web site, and the payoff is not immediate. It can take a year or two to see sales increase enough to justify the development costs. But once the on-line sales start, it establishes an entirely new revenue stream for a hobby shop that they otherwise would not have. More sales is always a good thing for a hobby shop!

As a society, our shopping habits have changed over the last 10-15 years. Where we once jumped in the car and went to the store, we now do most of our shopping in the comfort of our home via the internet. Last year, I did all my Christmas shopping with my iPad, in the comfort of my recliner. In responding to that change, any hobby merchant in business today who does not have a good web presence and on-line store, is ultimately destined to fail.

Rich Melvin

One of the reasons most of my online purchases have gone to Trainworld in the past few years (vs other forum sponsors), is that they have a well organized website that is fairly easy to navigate, good product descriptions and pictures, products are easily searchable, etc.  They have also produced their own videos of some of the products I have been interested in, and have them posted on their website in addition to their youtube channel (TrainWorldTV).  So that combined with great customer service and good pricing has made me a loyal customer of Trainworld.

- Joe


Pittsburgh, PA

Rich's story reminds me of the scene in the movie Joe Dirt at the fireworks stand.  The owner only sells snakes and sparklers because that's all he likes.  Joe in turn explains to him it's not about what he likes as the seller but what "I" the consumer want.  If you in business and don't understand the marketplace, you will fail.

Thank you Rich for your view point of what it takes to stay in business today as it was Spot On!

I brought this topic up as many of the advertisers here are not doing themselves any favors by having a website so poorly done.  I want to help them out by being a customer, but if I can't locate what they have for sale, the price or even a decent photo of the product then I simply pass on it.

As sponsors of this site, I want to see them exceed in their business.  I only hope that this thread was caught by a few eyes and made them realize that they need to improve their websites. 

It's simply painful when you see poorly run businesses that have great products for sale.


C&O H8 Allegheny: The heaviest & most powerful bad boy to ever traverse any rail.

Add Reply

Likes (1)

OGR Publishing, Inc. PO Box 218, Hilliard, OH 43026 330-757-3020