globally positioned? by Ian Cocoran July 10, 2006
Garmin is the undisputed king of GPS-driven cartography. For the past 20 years or so, its tried and tested teams of techies have quite literally moved heaven and earth to ensure that whether one is traveling on land, sea, or air, Garmin is the technology used to avoid getting lost.
The brand prides itself on functionality, which is probably just as well because there’s very little room for intuition when it comes to landing an aircraft in fog. Garmin.com has obviously been designed with the same ethos in mind; while that’s great for ease of navigation, it’s probably not for the thrillseekers.
Garmin’s homepage is distinctly uncomplicated, featuring a logical layout and an unimposing style that makes menu selection easy. There’s also a prominent search engine and, of course, a site map for users who know exactly what they’re looking for and just want to find it. There’s plenty of content too, with Garmin’s main industry sectors of avionics, marine and land-based mapping represented along with the company’s corporate history, investor relations, media room and job opportunities.
Garmin is also nurturing shoots of an online community within its “Testimonials” and “GPS Adventures” sections, where there appears to be no shortage of near-scrapes with happy endings from Iraq to Idaho, thanks to the boys from Kansas. Although the subject matter may be slightly one-dimensional at present, there is undoubtedly plenty to work with judging by the amount of feedback the company receives and publicizes.
This somewhat refreshing approach allows Garmin to successfully put the customer at the center of its business and site. The comprehensive “Contact Us” section even caters to website critics and owners of Garmin products. Indeed, requesting technical support is mere child’s play compared to the prospect of downloading the latest software updates and stacking your GPS device with such points of interest as the latest speed camera sites in your area.
The “Product Comparison” section is also well engineered and capable of providing potential buyers with detailed information on up to ten products at a time. Shame then that the online store only extends to North America, while the rest of the planet has to make do with the “Dealer Locator” and subsequent distribution network.
Notwithstanding that criticism, Garmin still does a very good job of matching its web proposition to its offline brand. The lack of imagination surrounding the site’s presentation is more than compensated by its reliability and content. However, just think what a difference it would make if the “Avionics” section was supported with a background audio of pilot dialogue and the “Marine” section had a flash-enhanced chart plotter that depicted the way-points of Columbus’ voyage to the Americas.
There really doesn’t need to be a trade off between creativity and functionality, just a balanced blend of both—and as soon as Garmin finds the right mix, it surely will be leading the way.
Ian Cocoran has worked as a senior manager and director with a number of multinational organizations and has been a contributor to brandchannel since its inception. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and daughter.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.