In our hobby it’s easy to view technology as nothing more than a medium for communication. We have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Chat, etc… all focused on how we communicate to our audience. Unfortunately with the rise of social media and numerous platforms for communication, we’ve lost site of a key component to our brand – The Website.
Yep, the good ole’ fashioned Home Page. Because of the low barrier of entry with Group Breaking and the relatively low standards of operation, the home page has taken the back seat. The one crucial environment businesses’ should be using to deliver their message, their product, their image, and their differentiators….are many times nothing more than a fly-by-night template with cut-and-paste content.
Thankfully we have plenty of examples in our hobby of businesses placing a heavy emphasis on their home page. In fact, there are some outstanding efforts from some breakers across the spectrum (the vets and the rookies). We’ve taken the time to dig through over 60 breaker websites and identify the Top 7 examples of priority and excellence.
We hope this information will encourage you to look into their work and feel confident in their commitment to their business. We also hope this will inspire the growing crop of new breakers to place MORE emphasis on the most important piece of their business, their website.
Before we jump into our rankings, here is the criteria we used to “grade” Breaker websites.
– Ease of Use (did it take long to figure out?)
– Visual Style (was it appealing?)
– Organization (we looked for key components – was it organized well?)
– Advanced Technology (did it demonstrate new technologies?)
– Ordering (Did I have flexibility?)
– Did it draw me in? (Was it cool and pleasing?)
With that being said, there many sites that were essentially disqualified after about 15-seconds of browsing. There were numerous reasons for this, but most had to do with very poor organization and visual style. If I couldn’t figure out where to go first…. I didn’t go anywhere. This is likely how a customer would feel – so I didn’t evaluate much longer.
A few other common reasons for lower scores and disqualification; inability to add products, lots of empty pages, various pages of clutter, nothing “about” the breaker, and a few others.
But enough of the bad, let’s start breaking down the sites that were absolutely exceptional.
TOP BREAKER WEBSITES of 2016
FIRST PLACE: Steel City Collectibles
You could argue that SCC has an “advantage” because they run a hobby shop…and one of the best in the industry. But I’d argue that they have the best BREAKER site on the planet. From the moment you land on the site you find yourself being sucked into the community and process.
They rely on the traditional Steeler Black/Gold, but let the white back-drop keep things fresh. The spacing is exceptional and doesn’t lend itself to crowded pages or confusion. This could be a huge problem because of the amount of content/products/information they have flowing around the site. But they seem to have found a nice arrangement that keeps things spread out just perfectly.
The Break Category pages are spectacular. They keep you focused on purchasing a spot by giving you TIME OF BREAK and ADD TO CART right from landing page. When you do decide to explore a product you are ushered into a different vacuum on the site with a beautifully placed faded overlay…and pushed to confirm your task (add to cart).
The Product Pages include everything you need, ordered properly, and very readable. Pick Your Teams are simple and load quickly. Random Teams are unique as you can pick your actual #’d spot in the break, something for those superstitious collectors. Wait, those don’t exist, right?
The ordering page is smooth, didn’t present any issues or hiccups in managing the add/delete. Plenty of payment options, again…no issues. They also provide a very nice BIG HIT page that actually shows the recent hits…but it points you back to the product to purchase sealed wax. This is retail. This is genius. I’m salivating over some of sweetest hits…of course I want to buy a box!
Overall I was completely impressed. I couldn’t find anything substantial wrong with the presentation / ease-of-use / integrations /etc… It is just a great site and I had no second thoughts about awarding SCC with the top spot. Well done.
SECOND PLACE: MOJOBREAK
The veterans of the breaking world – MojoBreak – have always had a great web presence. I can remember 5-6 years ago when I first started digging around the website, and back then I felt comfortable. Nothing has changed and the guys just know how to run a breaking website. So many of the smaller details aren’t taken for granted and that makes MojoBreak such an incredible spot to spend $$.
The landing page can be overwhelming at first glance (my one negative), but once you get your footing you understand how it’s presented. There is actually some beauty in all the madness because everything you need is right on the front page. The Mojo guys make sure you get all of the bells and whistles within a few seconds of landing on the page.
On the main page they do an outstanding job breaking out options in numerous ways. You want to see breaks from specific sports? How about different break types? Personal Boxes? Breaks on Sale? It’s all there. Clearly leading the buyer down a specific path. There is also clear focus on educated the newbies – HOW IT WORKS – ABOUT US (w/drop downs) – SLIDERS – they are all focused on making it easy for a new breaker.
The Product Category pages and Product pages both share a very attractive similarity – their font scheme. Mojo loves the futuristic and larger emphasized typefont… and so do I! I think it’s very inviting and it draws my attention to key areas of those pages (MojoPoints, Remaining Spots, Cost). Ordering was extremely easy and the integration with MojoPoints has obviously been thought out. In fact, this was one of the best reward systems across the sites…it gave me the impression they enjoy their freebies.
Finally, Mojo does something that only a few breakers try to do… strategically integrate their calendar. What is one of the key components of a breaking customer fitting into the community? Time. If you get a customer to confirm they can fit into a schedule they will be much more likely to make a purchase. Mojo has the calendar displayed on almost every page across the website. Sometimes it’s prominent, sometimes it’s tucked away, but it’s always there and creates such a great sense of community.
In summary, MojoBreak has helped push the breaking world forward over the last 7 years. Thankfully, they have not wasted their success by kicking back. These guys have invested in their website and made a process/site that is both enjoyable and fun to use. Well done!
THIRD PLACE: SportsBoxBreaks (SBB)
Jason and Kevin – the two “gurus” behind the curtain at SBB know how to create a website. Very similar to the other Top 2 websites of the year – SBB does what most DO NOT DO…pay attention to the smallest details. From the moment you land on the front page at SportsBoxBreaks you realize that this is legit. They run a business that is focused on breaking cards, and the front-end process get’s your fired up and ready to go. Let’s break this down.
They might have the most breaker-friendly front-page in the industry. It’s colorful, extremely symmetrical, and presents all of the key sticking points. The first set of breaks – Featured & New – on the front-page does something that I wish others would consider… not show duplicate products/breaks. SBB shows-off their insane variety without watering down the front page with 10 different 2016 Immaculate breaks. It’s strategically filtered so they spread the product love. Although, I’m surprised there isn’t a SPOTS REMAINING ticket somewhere on the front-page.
Below the Featured Breaks you have Recently Reduced, Break Categories, and How Breaking Works. Again, all of these laid out unbelievably clean and simple…each providing a necessary use on the front-page.
On top of the page they have THE BEST TOP MENU in the hobby. Seriously. It’s outstanding. You don’t need to wait for menus to fade-in or out, you don’t need to rollover, you just need to click OUR BREAKS and the rest just happens. Each sport is broken into 2 break-types, then below you have ALMOST FULL breaks (genius), eBay Breaks, and Break Notifications. This is how you handle a menu. The in-menu design is impeccable and still has me jealous.
Once you find your way to the Product Page (and you will) you’ll be presented with a complete description and ordering system. I love the SPOTS LEFT icon (so ESPN-like) and the Calendar on the left is perfectly placed. All of the little details are addressed, social integration, reviews, subscribe, etc… so there is really nothing to complain about. But, I did find it to be much slower and a bit more cumbersome to actually add something to my cart. I couldn’t get a product added without signing up…and the Social Integration required a bunch more fields.
Finally, their Education (HOW TO) content is some of the best in the space. We’ve got to leverage experts like SBB more often because they present information so well. You can learn various nuances just by reading folks HOW TO & ABOUT US pages. I’d encourage you to try it sometime. 🙂
Overall, it was hard to only give SBB a 3rd place rating. The site is just so nice. But the couple of hiccups I did run into (a few different times) cost them a couple points on my ranking. They are talented, creative, and very strategic so I’d expect to seem them continue to innovate even more over the next year. Awesome work!
FOURTH PLACE: TopCutBreaks
Our 2nd tier of top-ranked websites kicks off with TopCutBreaks coming in as our 4th ranked website. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for simplicity. If you can find a way to NOT fill the screen with content, why do it? The TCB team has done a great job of using the white back-drop to create a very refreshing, open, and progressively simple breaker site. There are some minor flaws that hurt the overall score, but this was a very pleasant experience. Let’s talk about it.
The moment you land on the home page you believe it’s going to be a pleasing visit. You are greeted with a slick top menu that provides direction for all the key areas – Random/Team/Getting Started/etc.. – and also 3 key bullets (Wed/Fri breaks/Top Beckett Breaker). Currently, there is also a fun credits roller recognizing those who got lucky enough to make it into the Super Bowl giveaway. As you scroll down there are 3 more sections that market some different area of TCB’s business.
As you start to navigate the site you’ll notice a couple of things. First, the site is REALLY fast. There aren’t a lot of heavy graphics that slow down the load-times, when you click a link, it loads. Second, all of the key sub-menus are beautifully presented on a horizontal bar below the top menu. During my entire visit – from beginning to end – I never really felt like I left the home page. That’s hard to do well, but I feel like TCB does a job of balancing the content and presentation.
Once we hit the Product Gallery and Product Pages you’ll likely notice the lack of selection…not a website issue, but it does limit our ability to see how sorting/filtering might work on the site. Regardless, there are products on the site so we walked through some ordering scenarios. Digging into a product is slick, once again it doesn’t require lots of maneuvering as everything is contained on the landing page. A small section appears when I click a product, I can dig deeper into for more product details and/or add product to the card. Done.
After we add a product to a cart, I’m a huge fan of the “ADDED TO CART” header that appears. It shows all of the key details of the current products in your cart and also what you JUST added. It’s a nice way of keep the buyer engaged in the transaction.
Finally, TCB is known for their integrated BGS Grading so it only makes sense that they have a BGS GRADING page. It’s pretty straightforward but it’s presented front-and-center on the page. This is a good example of making sure one of your key differentiators isn’t hidden on a secondary page. TCB does a great job of letting you know who they are / when they break / what they offer / how they differ – in a concise manner. It’s your value proposition, highlight it.
In summary, TCB has the makings of a much more integrated and rich site. Some of this will come with more volume and content. At the same time, they have figured out a way to leverage the simple and scaled back content…to create their message. It’s refreshing. I look forward to seeing how TCB grows in 2017!
FIFTH PLACE: TopShelfBreaks
Many folks know them for their fun (and very contagious) social presence and their top notch video streams. But on the front-end they’ve done a clever job of putting together their website. It’s built with two key things in mind – Educate and Sell. They don’t pull any punches on their landing page, it’s designed to get folks to jump right in. Let’s dig deeper.
One of the core objectives of any website designer is to help users understand WHAT to do…and HOW to do it. When a user lands on a home page, if they don’t know what’s happening, you are more likely to lose them. Studies have shown that you have about 10 seconds to connect with a visitor. This is one of the key reasons TSB’s website stuck out to me during reviews. The narrative of their landing page is beautiful. We are your “personal online card concierge” so let me ask you (Mr. Visitor): Want to know about box breaks? Want to see the breaks?
Once you start the journey you’ll quickly notice that TopShelfBreaks isn’t interested in cluttering their mission. The HOW TO is built to give you a 5-minute overview – and the rest of the ABOUT US pages are set-up to give a very quick intro Chris. It’s clean, it’s relevant, and it’s all there. But the lack of content is also one of the big negative drivers that lowered the overall score. There is the opportunity to really fill in some details and tighten up the current ABOUT/HOW/T&C pages.
The Product Page is clean – it’s focused on getting your info on the product + supplementary data. In TSB’s case there is a giveaway, so they put some additional focus on the jersey. It works…and it works well. It’s also nice to see emphasis on the email group / community on EVERY page. You don’t feel overwhelmed with the consistent ‘ask’ to join the mailing group, but it’s positioned well on each page.
Finally, the ordering process was flawless. I had ZERO issues add/removing/processing items in my card. TSB is a PayPal shop so there were no issues on my end. In addition, there isn’t much you can get confused about – it’s designed to be simple – because there isn’t additional pop-ups, reward programs, membership screens.
Overall, the set-up of the TSB page is a HUGE win for Chris and team. They don’t try to be something they aren’t, it’s clear they are confident in a simple/clean process and message. I think it works. But, there are a lot of opportunities to improve in 2017. Get rid of the pages that have no content. Add more strategic content. Integrate some more payment methods. Add a social feed. Etc… But overall, it’s hard to dislike the simplicity of the TSB approach.
SIXTH PLACE: Minera Sports Cards
Coming in at 6th place is the Mustache Man at Minera Sports Cards. Let’s just get this out of the way now, Minera has the hands-down BEST company logo in the hobby. How can you ever forget that massive airbrushed mustache? It’s only fitting that they make sure that logo is front-and-center on the home page. They have a brand image and I’m glad to see them letting it draw you in. What about the rest of the web page? Let’s talk.
Minera does a whole lot right with their approach. They have a great layout on their landing page – it’s natural in the way it presents Featured + Recent products down through the footer. I’d argue that there might be a few to many products, especially when there are duplicate products on the page. But, overall I think the front page is really handled well.
What makes the front-page (and overall approach) unique is that Minera finds a way to get 3 social streams fit into one page. They successfully pull off integrating Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook without overwhelming the user. And best of all…..each feed is a bit different! Whoa! If you are going to spend time really leveraging the social platforms (the right way), then by all means, get them on your home page. I think the execution is great.
Once you start finding your way to products you’ll realize it’s organized very well. Minera sells more than just breaks, so they have to make sure to clearly separate their toys/hobby boxes/supplies/etc.. I feel they do a good job of it. Throughout the process the sidebar stays relevant and tries to point you to a related product. Scanning for a product was easy, but might be tested with more inventory. In addition, as I was navigating the site I ran into no less than 3 pages that had ZERO content. I’d recommend just removing those pages.
The ordering process was very easy. I added, removed, and processed different items and the checkout was flawless. They are clever and make sure the Terms and Conditions are clearly presented (and required). They also don’t overwhelm you with the rewards system…but present it as you are checking out. Every product link worked well and I was impressed with the consistency of all of the variable in the process.
Overall, Minera has done a great job branding their site. But, thankfully they haven’t rested on their mustaches, but have created a very nice site with all of the core functionality working very well. Just like some of the other 2nd tier winners, I think some more content and a little bit of extra TLC will go a long way for their growth!
SEVENTH PLACE: LiveCaseBreak
Rounding out our Top 7 is LiveCaseBreak. The LCB team can best be defined as extremely thorough. From the moment you land on their site you see so much awesome attention to detail. Because of this, you get an overwhelming sense that THIS IS WHAT THEY DO. I mean, who else in the industry has human models wearing their branded shirts? Seriously, LCB is passionate about their brand and it gives you an immediate peace of mind. Let’s see how the rest of the site works.
The front page is meant to give you a feel for who LCB is…and truly personalized breaker. You get a nice layout of categories, live video, schedule, and even a few products at the bottom. There isn’t a clear sense of product urgency on the front-page (no “sells” or “upcoming breaks”) but because of the branding you want to check out those categories! In addition, the awesome turf headed image and the baseball diamond background rounds out the baseball driven theme. It’s just awesome.
Let’s find ourselves a break. Once you start diving into the Top Menu you begin to notice a bit more complexity. The LCB team decided to use the drop-down menu as a way to show all of the current breaks – broken out individually. So depending on the current # of available breaks, the menu may or may not be deep. Regardless, it’s an interesting way of managing the categories/product filters. I think it works pretty well on the drop-down, but I do not think it works well once you are on a category/sport page. There is a lot of redundancy with all of the sidebar products and the same products on the category filter bar.
During the Product stage I ran into some consistent issues with trying to add products to my cart. I tried on multiple occasions and with different browsers… and I just couldn’t get a few different products to add to my cart. But when I did get a product added I thought the process was smooth. I also love the scoreboard checkout cart (top right corner), such a nice touch. The last thing I’ll note re: Product Ordering, thank you for offering Amazon Pay. Not usual, but something I think provides important value on. 🙂
In summary, I’m convinced LCB is a couple of tweaks and additions away from having one of the best sites in the hobby. They have great branding and have core of their platform ready to roll. Unfortunately some of the little nuances (and the inability to order) reduced LCB’s score just enough to be outside the top of the bunch. I look forward to seeing the evolution of LCB in 2017!
RUNNER UP LIST:
The above 7 – Firehand, NastyBreaks, Layton Sports Cards, KTA Breaks, CardCollective, Jaspy’s Hobbyland, & CloutsNChara – were all in the final conversation for the Top 7. Each has a great web presence and is spending time enhancing their page. I look forward to watching the Runner Up’s + many of the new breakers over the next year.
Thank you for reading through our evaluation. We have enjoyed digging deeper into our hobby and finding ways that we can improve. More importantly it’s been a blast being able to highlight some of incredible businesses being managed in our hobby. With the websites – we have a few in our industry that are absolutely world-class – thank you for pouring your heart and soul into your business!
Come back in February for our next round of BreakerCulture awards!