Design Challenge: Help and the fish


Picture of Martin Reed
Martin Reed from

Martin Reed is a tall, young entrepeneur with a passion for fish. I met up with him in San Francisco recently, and we sat down at an outside table at Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building. I tried raw oysters for the first time, and Martin told me about sustainable fish, and the company he started to sell sustainable fish through the internet. Martin runs a tight ship (pardon the pun!) — the business on a tight budget (it’s a year old, so it’s still kind of a start-up). He doesn’t have a huge budget for website re-design. He told me he wants to improve the design of the website, but he’s not sure what he should do. Somewhere around the 4th or 5th oyster I had an idea. “Let’s tell your story at my blog and see if my readers will help you imrove your website.” And so that’s what we decided to do.

How you can help:

1. Click on this ilovebluesea link to listen to the 7 minute interview I did with Martin via Skype. We recorded this a few weeks after our  San Francisco meeting. He explains how he got the idea for the company, why he’s so passionate about sustainable fish, and he talks about the web site,

2. Go look at Martin’s site: Spend some time at the home page, category page, and individual product pages.

Product Page from I Love Blue Sea website
Product Page from

3. If you have ideas about how Martin can improve the site, write a comment to this blog post, or send me an email with your ideas:

4. I’ll compile the ideas and share them at the blog and also with Martin. We’ll even get Martin on Skype again to talk through the suggestions, and I”ll write a follow-up post so we can see what he thinks of our ideas.

So that’s the Design Challenge. I hope you will listen to the recording and send in your ideas!

Disclosure — Martin did say he might send me some oysters in return for attention to his site!



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14 Replies to “Design Challenge: Help and the fish”

  1. Hello! I’d like to suggest removing the ‘Home’ link from the headers because when you click on other links in the menu (About, Contact), their page already displays the Home link (ex. Home > About). Visitors can also click on the logo to go back to the homepage anyway. Just some suggestions! Good luck!

  2. Hi, Susan. Thanks for asking for our input.

    While Martin may be focused on making design improvements to his website, I think he’d benefit more by improving the written content first.

    Here’s an example:

    There’s nothing on the home page that really conveys the mission/passion of the company. The use of “sustainable” twice in the short copy next to the photos is pretty much it. Had I not known about it beforehand, I likely wouldn’t have made the connection.

    Since the environment is an emotional issue, and emotion plays a big role in getting people to buy, I think Martin is missing out on an opportunity to land customers that share his passion. (And passionate people know other passionate people.)

    I also think the written content in general on the home page could use some improvement. The two paragraphs under Why Buy Seafood Online are packed with benefits that could be played up better–maybe more prominently and “above the fold”. These suggested changes would likely drive changes to the design.

    Just my 2 cents (worth about a fraction of that)!

  3. Some random ideas as they came to me:

    I appreciate the blue colour scheme relates to the sea, but I don’t see blue as a colour that particularly inspires customers to buy. Try adding a contrasting colour (eg Amazon orange for link buttons).

    I never like home pages where I need to click a link to take me into the shop. The whole website is a shop, and the sales process needs to start at the homepage. Whilst you have a start on this at present I’d like to see a list of categories to really get me salivating.

    I was concerned about the environmental impact of the packaging. I see this addressed successfully in the FAQ but I would suggest highlighting it on the homepage (and other pages), for example by hotlinking the brief mention tat is already there (BTW, you could also hot link to more detailed articles on other areas that may be of interest to customers).

    On the product pages I’d like to see more information, which would be useful for SEO long tail links. You could add summarise the articles you link to, include or link to recipes etc. Remember that the more text you have the more google will like you.

    You need to work on your page titles. On your product pages you include the price in the title. People could see an out of date price in a search engine link and get confused or annoyed. Also titles should start at the most detailed info and work outwards – on the category pages you have it the other way around.

    Getting back to recipes I wonder if there’s scope to create a partnership with recipes websites such as You could pull related recipes from their site (I believe they have an API), they could link to you and earn affiliate dollars.


  4. I think Martin has a great piece of content that describes his business but it is buried on the bottom of the Products page ( I think that paragraph is a great description of what his company does. I think it should be at the top of that page but also highly placed on the homepage. If it could somehow be represented graphically, I think it would work even better. I think he really needs to highlight when you get the package which I understand to be next day. Really key off the fact that you can get fresh seafood delivered to your door and experience fresh seafood from anywhere.

    I agree the call to action links need more contrast. Maybe a green or orange color that would compliment the blue scheme.

    I agree that Martin needs to convey more of his passion through his copy. I think the homepage would be the place to do it.

    I like that he highlights his daily specials and highlights their best sellers. I think it gives people a good starting point.

  5. Thank you so much everyone for the great suggestions!!! And big thanks to Susan!!!

    @Karoline – The reason we put it back in the tab is because our demographics was complaining that they did not understand how to get home. Is there another way we could make it more apparent?

    @Stephanie – I agree that the content on the home page definitely needs to be reworked. I think that is pretty accurate for most of the pages. I’d like to include more pics/video/infographics to convey what we’re about and how it works.

    @Mike – Great suggestions re: SEO! I definitely want to A/B test category links on the home page with the redesign. Any other ways that would induce salivation that we should be testing?!

    @Jeff – I agree. I’ll be sure and mirror the phrasing for the home page. It might even be good to have something similar on product pages so that people that land there first get a quick overview of who/what/why. Any ideas on how to implement something into our template?

  6. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions!
    Claudia — i found the problem with the subscribe button so it should all be working now!

  7. Here are all of my comments, though reading some of the above comments I found some good insights as well (such as hotlinks about the packaging, more about the environment, and recipe suggestions/links)
    I’m confused about the flat rate shipping image.. and why that is a benefit to me? What is the $5-20..? If I spend $5-20 I get free shipping? Make it more of a promise and exciting! Also, how QUICK is the shipping? I don’t want rotten fish on my door. And HOW is it shipped? Ice crates in Styrofoam for freshness? Give me a bit more detail about how you protect your product en route to me.

    There isn’t enough about the word ‘sustainable’ ‘ecofriendly’ ‘fresh’ and ‘quality’ bouncing off the page. It just looks like a regular seafood page unless you read the text. Make those words more noticeable and dominant.

    I really like the ‘daily specials’ panel. It’s cute with an authentic feel.

    IF you are going to have the ‘cart summary’ on the home page where you can’t physically add anything to your cart THEN have a nice button underneath it that takes you directly to the area where you can shop OR remove the cart summary from the home page. The same could be said of the estimated shipping section.

    Speaking of the estimated shipping section, I’d add this and the cart to the top right corner of the page where people expect to find more account specific and important information. Allow people to register if you can, and then store their favourites or have recommendations for them based on their previous purchases.

    Give the newsletter more pizzazz—why do I want to sign up—do I get deals? Make this more noticeable and enticing. Get rid of that horrible styling on the subscribe button and make it a nice CSS coded blue button. There aren’t many visuals of fish beyond the logo fish which isn’t even that noticeable.

    The links to ‘more on this species’ and ‘more on sustainability’ are dull and easily ignored, even though I personally would want to read that content—we need more visuals or subsection grouping (rounded borders around blocks on information about species or about sustainability’). What visuals can we include that bring to mind sustainability? What about learning about fish? Make the information more FUN.

    Replace the cart summary and estimated shipping sidebar on the homepage with contact information, like the phone number, blog, and twitter and facebook icons/links, rather than those hidden in the footer. Maybe have more incentive—if you share on those social media sites you get a 10% discount? Giveaways? Competitions?

    Get rid of the home link in the menu. Or at least put it at the front of the menu! Instead have ‘why sustainable?’ as a menu item OR as a section at the top of the home page as that is the whole point of the site—to make people care about sustainably sourced fish.

    On that note, why not have more about ‘mercury’ in fish—like a cute thermometer or symbol of mercury that deals with this common concern in people’s minds that eat fish. Show how you are better than the average fish.
    Speaking of the menu bar, ‘About’ is the only section with a dropdown… so there is a lack of consistency. Remove the drop down from about and find other ways of putting this content in the homepage so that people see what is important about the site.

    Also your recommendations link is broken. And have recommendations on the homepage and give reasons for why they are recommended, i.e., ‘tastes nice with…’ or ‘seasonally fresh’, etc.

    I think that is plenty to get you started. Some positive feedback is I really love the look and feel of the site. It’s calm, playful, rustic but clean. The colours are nice. I really like the ‘daily special’ board and your photos in costume. Those should be more prominent. Best of luck and any more questions, get in touch! Happy to help

  8. I would start by looking at his priorities as a business-owner and do some research on interactive designers in his area, and then approaching them to find out what they can do with his small budget. That way he can invest in his business by hiring a professional to consult with him and create design solutions that help him accomplish his business goals, as opposed to using a sob story (“Martin runs a tight ship (pardon the pun!) — the business on a tight budget (it’s a year old, so it’s still kind of a start-up). Oh, boo-hoo…) in an attempt to get free professional advice, which is akin to his customers requesting free samples in case they one day feel like trying them out, perhaps.

    Entrepreneurs with an ounce or two of business sense understand that design is a powerful tool that merits their investment and their research into who to work with. As long as he continues to see the design of his online store as an afterthought (and treating it as something that can be easily fixed with little more than applying freely given advice on blog post comment thread), it will continue to perform below its potential (as I presume it currently is, judging by his apparent admission that the site needs work).

  9. I think he would improve his business professionalism greatly by working directly with a professional design firm that specializes in online marketing. Those type of companies not only will give him advice on how to improve his online presence; but will be able to offer workable solutions that are tailored to his needs.

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  11. The one question that keeps me from really getting into the otherwise neatly designed and persuasively written web site:

    How do they provide refrigerated shipping?

    After about 4 clicks I found some info about the gel packs. That’s a big opportunity for a conversion lift right there.

    Put some kind of guarantee about freshness and refrigeration upfront – a badge, stamp or promise visible on every page of the web site.

    Reassure your clients first, then sell fish to them.

  12. I didn’t even get as far as the people above, I was immediately put off by the images. They are very unflattering to the fish and none of it looks very appetizing or very fresh.

    I went to see what the images on the “other guys” websites look like and what I noticed is that even in the cases where some of pictures were only marginally better, I much preferred them. I noticed that on the sites where I liked the images, they used oranges or reds which seemed to either really bring out the coloring of the fish, or complimented the coloring.

    The blue colors seem to make the fish look grey and dead (and a lot of fish sites do appear to use blue).

    Knowing that orange is a good color for restaurants (gets you hungry!) I think bringing in some orange will compliment the blues already used, and help to make the fish pictures a more appealing.

  13. What you posted made a bunch of sense. But, what about this?
    suppose you were to write a awesome post title? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your website, but
    what if you added a headline that grabbed a person’s
    attention? I mean Design Challenge: Help and the
    fish | The Brain Lady Blog is kinda vanilla.
    You should glance at Yahoo’s home page and note how they
    create news headlines to get viewers interested.
    You might add a related video or a related picture or
    two to get readers interested about everything’ve got to say.
    In my opinion, it might make your website a little

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