Trade Websites
January 17, 2008, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Trades

In designing, specifying, and building our projects we wade through a tremendous amount of crap out there on the internet. But for every 50 poorly composed, difficult to navigate, steaming pile of dog-doo sites out on the web there is always a gem or two. To track the countless trade related websites we’ve started keeping a Trade website matrix (25KB .PDF) which documents, among other things, a websites usability <read: we are design geeks>.

Trade Websites Matrix

Today’s blog entry focuses on a handful of sites that have our attention and our business. While many suppliers and manufacturers sell clean, modern products we keep going back to these specific sites because they are well designed. Here are 6 key factors:

Effective interface: easy to understand and navigate
Pleasing aesthetics: professional photographs and composed pages
Respectful use of the viewer’s time: take us straight to the data
Thorough information: all products and options presented & organized
Useful data: downloadable specs, AutoCAD files, dimension sheets
Search options: different methods to find what we’re looking for

Best Website: McMaster Carr
This site is phenomenal – it displays tens of thousands of products and does so with a direct and understandable interface.

McMaster Carr Website

A similar graphic style is used for all product illustrations, which makes the site pleasing to navigate; even items as insignificant as screws have multiple illustrations and diagrams to help you choose exactly what you’re looking for.

McMaster Carr Website

The McMaster Carr website gets the BUILD gold star of uber-greatness. They also ship most of their products same day so that you get it very quickly.

McMaster Carr Website

Best Kitchen + Bathroom website: Kohler

Kohler Website

All fixture models are shown with their respective options and they provide a thorough list of downloadable technical information. Inspiring photography along with good data makes the experience of selecting plumbing fixtures more enjoyable. There can be a bit too much going on in the page the further you get into the products but the site is straight-forwards and clean.

Best brand lighting website: Louis Poulsen

Louis Poulsen Website

The site includes pleasing photography that represents the products nicely and provides downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format. It is NOT necessary to create an account or login to search the product. We find the site to be a bit over-designed but once you figure out the navigation it makes sense

Best conglomerate lighting website: 100watt

100 Watt Website

A thorough collection of lights combined with effective search options gets you to where you’re going quickly. The search does NOT require a login or membership. Lights are accompanied by drawings with dimensions and there are downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format for some products.

Best cabinet website: Henrybuilt

Henrybuilt Website

The site is graphically clean and composed with high-end photographs. There are no gratuitous intro film clips, which is rare for cabinet websites. They provide downloadable technical spec sheets in .PDF format for clients (login required).

Best hardware website: Omnia

Omnia Website

Clean, organized photos of door knobs allow you to navigate quickly to specific products and downloadable data. The relevant options are shown where applicable.

Post your favs…


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i like the mc-master website. It’s easy to understand and navigate.

Comment by Anthony Fesalbon

I wish more of the plumbing websites would catch up with Kohler especially when it comes to high end fixtures and furniture. It seems to me that all the hush hush of trying to not let too much information get out there because companies are all worried about getting knocked off, forget that for every time it takes us longer to find what we’re looking for, that’s one less specification and purchaser. High quality and excellent service can’t be replaced and are in a league of their own to begin with. This bit of venting stems from having to go through flash websites that are all fancy, no content and difficult to navigate. There are websites that are being formed like or that try to catalgue product … still wishing more manufacturers would catch up. Thanks for the great post …


fantastic post, i’d love to see that whole spreadsheet.

Comment by zero2130

Anthony – glad you like the McMaster Carr site. Several years ago the products were only available by catalog, which was worth it’s weight in gold and nearly impossible to obtain. The website has been a godsend to little firms like ours.

Gaile – That’s a good point, I didn’t think about the tactics of secrecy that some of these companies are probably employing. There have been numerous occasions where I’ve tried to spec other high-end brands and because of website difficulties I go right back to Kohler (the stillness and purist lines are the BUILD standards). It always amazes me – some of these groups have the ability to design gorgeous plumbing fixtures but when it comes to their website they don’t apply the same eloquence and logic.

Zero2130 – I’ve linked the trade website matrix document to the post. It’s very much in process but its got some good resources.

Comment by buildllc

There are a couple of additional sites that are worthy of being called out:
Mockett hardware (particularly for their cabinet tab pulls that we’ve order a few thousand of over the years):
and for rubber flooring, Activa (formerly Pirelli):

Comment by Kevin

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