January 17, 2000
Anyone who uses the Internet has encountered slow-loading Web sites, but
how often does it seem worth the wait?
At JFA Designs, the elegance of the site's design and the loupe-close look at its jewelry are so good you almost don't mind. Visitors will need Macromedia's Shockwave to see the site in its entirety. Conveniently, there's a link to download the plug-in. (Go to www.shockwave.com to download it now.)
Launched in November by designer Jean-Francois Albert, this site is more picture window than storefront. Visitors can see the goods in all their larger-than-life-size, full-color glory. To buy, however, they are directed to a dealer. Search all you like, but there isn't as much as a dollar sign here, much less cost or ordering information.
Visitors will do lots of oohing and aahing anyway. Using Flash, the show opens on the home page, where the company's name and tagline slowly emerge. Its "JFA" initials are captured in three boxes that circle the screen, then quickly sink to the bottom of the screen as the company's second message emerges at center-screen, along with scans of six rings and a schematic drawing of their adjustable-fit mechanism.
Passing the cursor over the photography does nothing, but the schematic is interactive; lay the cursor there and the stone slides up and down to demonstrate how JFA's recently patented "Signature Fit" mechanism works. The schematic doesn't link anywhere. The bar across the bottom of the screen offer fairly typical choices: "Jewelry;" "Events;" "Press;" "Links;" "About JFA." Mousing over on one of the five choices brings more choices. Choosing "Jewelry," for instance, presents these options: "Signature Fit;" "Bridal Collection" and "The Collection."
Knowing large photographs would load slowly, JFA designed the site to provide reassurance that all is well during the wait. While waiting to see the 17-piece main collection, for instance, JFA's logo appears at center screen. Below that pulses the word "Loading" and a line indicating your computer's processing the information. Somehow, the acknowledgement that you're waiting makes it easier to take.
Loading all the graphics takes at least a full minute. On the other hand, that's the end of the wait. After the appearance of the first item an 18k yellow-and white-gold ring set with 108 round brilliant-cut diamonds and an oval-cut peach sapphire subsequent items appear almost instantaneously. On a 15-inch monitor, each ring displayed was a full three inches in diameter.
Visitors who explore the site's other pages can view JFA's wedding and engagement jewelry and a more detailed explanation of the rings' adjustable mechanism. In "About JFA" is a short history of the company, plus biographies of the designer and sales manager Babs Albert and a listing of open jobs at the company. In "Press," you'll find a small mention of JFA from the October 1999 issue of Mirabella and a sample of its ad campaign in Town & Country, plus an invitation to e-mail the firm for copies of past press releases.
"Links" offers only one choice: Ashford.com, the luxury site that is selling jewelry by JFA Designs and other designers. The link takes you to Ashford.com's home page, from which you'll need to search out JFA's jewelry all over again. One glaring problem with the site the "Events" page which, in mid-January, still listed four "upcoming" December trunk shows.
- by Mark E. Dixon