The best websites make it easy for you to find what you're looking for, and make you feel at home while you look. Check out www.harley-davidson.com, for example. Click on the country you're interested in on the home page and you go to a separate and spiffy home page for that region. It's neatly designed and full of promo and events, naturally, but at the top is a button for "Experience." It takes you to a drop-down menu with selections for "Getting Started," "Safe Riding," "Fun and Games" (where you can get Harley screen savers and games), and their owners group, appropriately called H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group). There's also a "Wish List" button where you can create your own fantasy list of Harley accessories you would like to have. Your friends can go to that part of the site, find your profile, see what you want, and, if they're in a spending mood, buy it for you as a birthday or Christmas gift. No wonder customers tattoo the Harley name on their bodies.
Harley sets the bar pretty high for being a welcoming and informative site. But some vendors in the original equipment market have developed welcoming and informative sites, too. Case in point: machine vision suppliers. Here, in alphabetical order, are a few of those vendors and how they organize their websites:
Banner Engineering has a clean, simple home page (www.bannerengineering.com) with buttons for all their family of products, including photoelectric sensors and vision sensors. There's also buttons for "iSelect-Photoelectrics," and "iKnow-Online Training. The iSelect button takes you to pictures of products, and each picture links you to specs for the product. You can compare versions of products, see data sheets, and place an order.
Cognex (www.cognex.com) likewise has a clean and simple home page with prominent links to a list of free seminars and a free vision guide. The latter is a technical reference source for applying vision technology and a tutorial for building a system. The site also has a section on machine vision basics, a product-selection guide, and a link to Machine Vision Reports, a series of pamphlets with titles such as "Buying a Vision Sensor—Ten Questions You Must Ask." Intriguing title, but you have to register to get the copy. You can't read it on the website.
DVT (www.dvtsensors.com) has, among other things, testimonial videos. The videos take the format of a "Good Morning, America"-type interview between an "anchor" person and a customer, where the customer explains the specific problem he had and how the technology helped him solve it. The testimonials are informative, and can be even more so with some hands-on demonstrations. The site also has an online catalog through which you can order a product and see how many of the products are in stock. And, the site makes it easy to find a distributor, a systems integrator, or a workshop.
Omron (www.omron.com), which sponsors the Design News Global Innovation Award, has a home page that consists of the company's name, a picture of a processing operation, and a business and country index to get you closer to the applications and geography you want. At a related website, www.expresssolutions.omron.com, you can sign up for a free trial and have an Omron analyst evaluate your processing line.
Okay, so maybe no one will tattoo "machine vision" on their body, but they will get good technical information at those sites. And who knows? Maybe the tattoos will be next.
Reach Teague at firstname.lastname@example.org.