Deconstructing The Fortress

Hong Kong is known to be haven for almost anything with the word digital on it. Digital cameras, PlayStations, mobile phones, PDAs, and so on. And while these products are sold in almost every country in the world, Hong Kong is known for great deals in these type of products. One of the most popular retailers of electronic products here in Hong Kong is Fortress, along with Broadway and the numerous tech shops in Wan Chai, Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po.

Deconstructing The Fortress

It’s a common belief that people usually buy electronic goods in shops within Hong Kong because they get their questions answered, ensure the quality is good and shop assistants pamper customers. That is why Mannings and Bonjour shops don’t have websites even if they can sell online like Wellcome and Sa Sa do.

What about the case of Fortress, whose site doesn’t have a shopping cart even if it displays the product price of an item? Are sites that don’t sell online don’t need to be optimized well to be rank? Of course not. A site that lurks in the dark and can’t be found is a useless site.

Even if the site is just meant to serve as a reference point (assuming that prices displayed online are in sync with those displayed on the shelf), it is valuable for its pages to be highly visible. On many occasions, visitors who are initially looking for tips on saving energy on their refs and aircons could end up buying something if they come across something interesting on pages they find. So, okay, let’s assume you agree with me. Let the deconstruction begin.

Good and bad content
The homepage is divided into good and bad content. The good side of it is that the main navigation bar is highly crawlable pieces of content. However, the middle side contains navigation bar that’s embedded on Flash. Is it bad? Not 100% bad. The pages embedded on links are still on separate pages (not contained within the Flash animation) so that means even if search engines can’t penetrate them within Flash, they can be reached from elsewhere.

Folder structure
The folder structure seems okay even if they are a bit deep.

Language
If visitors type in Chinese search queries, maybe pages are probably not gonna show up even if there are Simplified or Traditional Chinese language versions. There is no customization on page titles and meta data, just like in its English counterpart. Language swaps are complicated by JavaScript coding instead of the simpler anchor linking.

Product organization
This is where it gets nasty. I go to English page’s Home AV and then Home Theatre. I am drawn by the beauty of Sony DAV-DZ850KW. It’s pricey to me so I try another one. But instead of doing the conventional navigation of clicking the menu items, I play around with the URL. I notice Fortress is employing parameters read by the file detail.html. Hmm, what if I remove the parameters? Let me do it.

Oops, I am led into a seemingly endless list of products from plasma TV to personal computers, all bundled in one page. Have a look.

The good things
I like the product comparison feature. Really helpful. And unlike its dreaded product organization described above, its Education Tips work better when you remove the long parameters.

All in all, Fortress don’t need a big revamp on its site in order to make the pages more search engine friendly. A closer look at its template pages, the way its content management system work and how its scripts decipher parameters with proper user testing are the keys to strengthening the Fortress.