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Hey Fellow Steepsters!

Calling out all tea gurus on steepster. As new small business owners, we want to be actively looking for ways to improve our website and our business so we would like to hear your suggestion and ideas! Please visit http://www.theTeaValley.com and tell us what you think on this thread. Don’t hold back. We want to hear the good and the bad.

As a way of saying thank you, we would like to award 3 people with the best feedback with 30 grams of any tea of their choosing from our selection. My fiance and I will go through the posts and announce the winners on July 17.

Thanks in advance guys. Your feedback is much appreciated!

Jian Liu
http://www.theTeavalley.com


UPDATE: Here is a guideline to give everyone a better sense of what information we see as most valuable:

- Information/Content you deem important that we should include on our site
- FAQ questions that you would like to see addressed
- Influencing factors that lead to purchases
- Tea selection/suggestions
- Product names, price points and sizes (general feeling, suggestion, comparisons, etc.)
- Layout, navigation and design
- Typos and errors

36 Replies

Hi there!
Well, I have always LOVED the colors you have chosen for your site…I have been there several times over the last few weeks, actually.

It’s nice and clean and easy to read!

I LOVE the photographs you chose…especially the one on the side on the page titled SHARING A CUP OF CULTURE. I always like to see health/benefits info and you have that as well!

Your labels and tins look very nice, too! I hope to add some to my stash some day soon!

I also like the ‘translation’ of the tea names – that always nice to see in both languages, too! The Tea Descriptions are awesome!

I’d love to see some more green teas, but I am thinking that will all come with time, am I right!? And I was wondering about black and flavored teas as well or are you shying away from those on purpose? Just curious.

I also like the info on the right side of each tea/product page! Great job there, too!

I think your site is really user friendly and I can wait to see more Tea Valley Reviews, chatter, and hopefully, soon, try some for myself!

As for suggestions…I think you have a lot of great stuff covered already…maybe just continue to build on your “culture” side of things…keep that branding going! Maybe tell us more about the tea farmers you know and deal with or their lifestyles. Or maybe related charities or ways to help support the regions you support – that sort of thing.

Thanks for connecting with us Steepsterities!

Hey TeaEqualsBliss,

Thanks for your wonderful comments and your thorough feedback! We are very proud of our photographs. A friend of mine and I actually spent a whole weekend steeping every single tea and taking every single picture. Its good to know that they don’t go noticed :-)

As for adding more green tea, black teas and flavor teas to our selection, yes that will come with time. Since we are a small business owner working with minimal funds, we had to be very selective about our tea. However, we were very adamant about providing only tea that we deemed tasty. We will definely expand our selection as we grow.

Thanks!

I think it is great that you pointed out the tea name translation issue. What is the general consensus on that? Can the phonetic translations be intimidating?

I don’t think it would be intimidating…I’m all for the more info – the merrier! Thanks for your feedback to my feedback! LOL :)

I agree, I don’t think the phonetic translations are intimidating; however, it could be really helpful if you also had the English translation as a subtitle.

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I really like your introduction on the home page. I don’t know how many people actually read those kinds of things… but I do, because it reveals to me the kind of person that I’d be buying from – what tea means to them. I like to purchase tea from people who respect tea as much as I do.

The colors of the site are very nice. You have good photos – they show the products but they are also visually interesting (not just a pile of tea).

You have a decent selection of teas. I like that your “sidebar” has a lot of pertinent information about the teas including brewing parameters, as this is something that some tea companies overlook.

I love that you use Paypal, because that is my personal favorite way to purchase online.

I don’t know that I have a lot of suggestions… I think that your website defines the type of tea company you are, and I like that. It is visually a very beautiful site, and it seems to be very user friendly.

Hey LiberTEAS,

I’m glad that you felt a personal touch from our website. The statement is something that we as the founder of the site strongly believes in and want to share with the world. It is also nice to know that you liked PayPal. We always wondered about want is the general consenses of PayPal vs other check out services.

Thanks again!

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-Jessica- said

First off let me say that I really like the layout of your site, it appears to be very well put together in a seamless fashion. Which I think is awesome for a brand new site!

Now the only negative thing that I could see was that under the FAQ link, this topic line: “What is the appropriate way to story tea?” “story” should be “store”. Other than that, I honestly don’t see any other glitches.

One other thing that I had a question on was if you carry white teas and if so where is it located at? If not, is there a reason? Do you concentrate specifically on greens/oolongs/pu-erhs mainly?

Aside from those two things above, I love your color scheme… I feel warm and cozy while searching your site. Your pictures are greats and of good quality and I like that I can see the tin that my tea would be arriving in (I have a thing about tea tins).

I also like that I can easily navigate around your site with ease, any questions I may have are all right there and in easy view. (Major plus! Some are really hard to find certain things, like the companies return policy or contact info).

I also like how you gave your customers the ability to get to know you through your “Our Story” link. I think this makes people more comfortable and feel as though they can “connect” with the seller better.

Kudos, for the new site! Congrats! ;-)

Hey Jessica,

I really appreciate your feedback. Thanks for catching the typo! I will get that fixed tonight.

We currently don’t have any white teas in our inventory for the same reason I mentioned in my reply above. Currently, we have a stronger focus in green, oolongs and pu-erhs because those are what we drink most frequently as Cantonese. However, we do understand the importance of having a wider selection to suit the broad palette so we will continue to work on this.

Thanks, Jessica. Look forwarding to connecting with you and everyone in this community :)

In a similar vein, “how much tea leaves should I use” probably should be “how much tea should I use” or “how many tea leaves should I use” — the former is better, I think.

I think “How much tea should I use” works the best. Thanks, Morgana!

-Jessica- said

Thanks for responding back! I think quality is far more important than the quantity of teas you have on hand… I am just overall a curious individual and sometimes I wonder if a company’s focus is just on certain teas or if they just happen to be short on teas at the moment. The ones that post how they focus on a certain type of tea will usually get my attention faster (even if all teas are available)… this just tells me that more than likely that certain tea is of high quality because the owners are putting their focus on it… I guess it’s like the tea highlighted is their baby, so I trust it will be really good!

Also, I forgot to mention earlier that I LOVE that you put both conversions on there of grams and ounces… I read everything in ounces, so for the sites that weigh their tea in grams confused me for a while, before I became more familiar with that conversion. I’m sure that is a huge benifit for people.

One other thing that may be of good use is to put the appropriate water temperatures under your brewing instructions. Some people that are fairly new to the world of tea may become confused by what is considered “hot” water for the green teas…boiling water is self explanatory though, so that should be fine ;-) Also the conversions for celsius and fahrenheit for the temps. will be beneficial for people from all over.

I can’t wait to see your company grow, so far you are off to a great start! ;-)

It is interesting that you brought up the temperature issue. When we first launched the site, we did have temperature guides for each tea in Celsius. However, after considering the fact that 1) it doesn’t make sense to have Celsius if we are targeting an American audience and 2) how many people think of water temperature in terms of degrees? Although I did learn in middle school what the boiling point was for water in Fahrenheit, I had to look it up to refresh my memory :-D Ultimately, we decided to use more general and universal terms instead. However, since this critic has already popped up a few times, maybe its worthwhile to revisit :) Thanks, Jessica.

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I will work on writing a detailed review this evening once I have put my daughter to bed for the night. Much easier that way. :-)

Look forward to it, Rachel :)

Sorry to frustrated to write the review tonight. I will work on it tomorrow night. I wrote up most of it and then it disappeared on me so I am sure you understand why I am a little miffed at the moment and need time to clear the mind and take another wack it tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

Sorry to hear Rachel. We all know how it feels and hate it when technology crap out on us :-/

Thank you for your patience.

It appears many have already said a lot of what I would have remarked but still I would like to cover the following points…

1. Include a “Best Sellers” list
2. Allow customer reviews and possible 5 Star Ranking system
3. One of my favorite things on some tea sites are customer loyalty programs.  Perhaps frequent buyers earn points for purchases with the option to turn those points into FREE tea. A win, win scenario.
4. I LOVE the colors and crispy photography.
5. As a customer I want to see “What’s in it for me?” information right away.  I don’t want to have to look at the FAQ’s to see I can spend $35 for Free Shipping.  I should see it advertised throughout the site as maybe a “callout”
6. The Flat Rate shipping should also be more obvious. $5 is a great deal and it should be flaunted as such. 
7. More pictures of what each tea looks individually.  If you look at a side by side of the photographs of available tea they look similar.  You have to almost stare to find the difference. The appearance should be more obvious.
8. I like that the directions to steep, origins, and etc, located on the right of the screen is GREAT!.

So bottom-line, as a consumer.  If I ran across your website the question is “Why?” should I buy tea from this company.  What are they offering that would want to take a chance?

1. Shipping Cost
2. Tea Selection and Quality
3. Samplers
4. Promotions
5. GREAT Customer Service
6. Reviews the tea and company receive
7. Lets be honest sometimes how atheistically pleasing a site is to look at is important too. Sometimes we can be a little vain.  

I hope this helps and if I can think of more I will be sure to follow up. Please ask me questions if you have any.

Sincerely,
Rachel :o) 

I think you mean ‘vain’. :-)

Haha oops, thanks!

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Thanks for the opportunity!
I’m going to critique your website all with a view to help you guys (as much as I can, which I’m no expert, simply a customer!) bring in sales as much as possible.

I. Information/Content you deem important that we should include on our site:
I have found that the tea companies who provide lots of information about the teas they carry, brewing instructions, tea history, recipes, and other bits of information, have the best websites and the ones I’d most likely buy from. Two websites that come to mind are www.hibiki-an.com and www.denstea.com. Both share stories about the harvest that year, about how their teas are grown, brewing suggestions, and more (they include brewing instructions on the page of each tea like you guys do, but they also have whole sections on brewing tea which are fun and very helpful to read). http://www.hibiki-an.com/readings/how-to-enjoy-green-tea.html or http://www.denstea.com/index.php?main_page=page_5#brewingmain .

Other content that is helpful is direction if you are new to tea. If you have a link where people who are new to (Chinese) teas can go and be directed as to what they should try out based on their tastes. (Example: http://www.denstea.com/index.php?main_page=tea_navigator). For me, being able to sample something before buying is HUGE! It shows a company is so confident in their product that they will give a little free because they know the customer will come back for more.

In each full page where you can select an individual tea and find out more about it (example http://www.theteavalley.com/Selection/Oolong_Tea/TGY-HX.aspx), on the right you have “brewing instructions” that aren’t very precise. Everyone enjoys tea differently, but perhaps you could say “Boiling Water, or 170 degree water” and generally use more precise measurements to help people who are newer to tea have a basic idea of what works.

II. FAQ questions that you would like to see addressed
As I mentioned above, you should have a few questions that explain the differences between the teas you carry to help people decide which they might like best (ie “Choosing a Tea”).

III. Influencing factors that lead to purchases
1. Being able to sample teas before buying. Either an initial sample(s) provided to try, or a free sample(s) included with orders.
2. Reduced or free shipping for orders over certain values (example, if shipping was reduced for orders over $20, or free if the order was over $60, or whatever numbers work best for you).
3. Coupons, discounts, and promotions (getting something like this on a monthly basis, even if it is a 15% discount, or free shipping or something like that), especially if you send those things out via email for people who sign up. That generates excitement (at least for me) and gets me to look at the website again.
4. The impression that the tea you get is limited, that it only comes around once/yr, or that the promotion you are offering is only available for a limited time. I know I have been influenced by this, because then I want to take advantage of a product or a discount while it is available.

IV. Tea selection/suggestions
I think the tea selection you have looks good, and as others have said, I’m sure you’ll expand it as you grow. I too would like to see more Chinese green teas available. I would also make it clearer on your website the quality of your various teas. I can somewhat tell by the price, but if you included a symbol, rating system, or name “Regular, Superior, Premium, etc” to indicate the quality more clearly. In the mini-description (here: www.theteavalley.com/Selection/Green_Tea/Green_Teas.aspx ) you do mention quality, but if you had a system of some kind, that would more clearly indicate which teas are of high, middle, and standard quality.

V. Product names, price points and sizes (general feeling, suggestion, comparisons, etc.)
I like too, that you use the pin-yin Chinese name for your teas. However, I think you should also include the english translation subtitle as well. Having an “english” name that people can associate with the tea can help so that it doesn’t seem as intimidating. For example, your Hangzhou Shi Feng Long Jing could have a subtitle “Lion’s Peak Dragonwell” (on this page is where you could insert subtitles http://www.theteavalley.com/Selection/Green_Tea/Green_Teas.aspx).
Regarding sizes, they do seem a little small. I would almost never buy 1 oz, as that wouldn’t be worth the shipping to me, because I will use it up quickly. I know you are probably trying to keep your prices low, and therefore send smaller quantities, but 25 grams hardly seems worth it. Maybe you have found it to be popular, but it seems better to have a very small amount (say 10 gram sample) for a low cost of $1-$3, and then to have the smallest order size be 50 grams (or larger of course).

VI. Layout, navigation and design
Like others have said, I love the colors you’ve used, the photos, and the name of your company, logo (the Chinese character above the valley) and the main photo of the valley as well. It definitely leaves an impression and I really liked what I saw.
I would say two things about the layout that could be improved (in my opinion only!). :) First, I think you should increase the size of the website frame, so that the brown border with leaves is smaller. On the home page this doesn’t make a big difference, but on this page especially http://www.theteavalley.com/Selection/Oolong_Tea/Oolong_Teas.aspx it would help to be able to see ALL of the teas together and to not have to scroll up and down. So if the overall window took up more space (the border was smaller), then there would be more space to display all of the teas in that category, and thus no need for a mini scroll bar. The window that displays all of your Oolong teas just feels too small, and it would be nice if you could see everything easier.

VII. Typos and errors
First paragraph, last sentence of home page, " While offering tea may just seem like a simple gesture, the act provided an environment for my family and their friends to indulge in sincere conversations and interrelate on human level." – this needs to probably say, “interrelate on a human level.” Instead of “on human level.”

I hope this helps!
Overall, I would say I really like your website, themes, and the ‘purpose’ of your company – “rediscover something we have long took for granted, the art of conversation. Join us in our journey. Invite your friends and share a cup of tea with them. Disconnect from your distractions and reconnect with those around you.”
Good luck and God bless!

Shinobicha:

Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed feedback. The consumer point of view is exactly what we want! There are a lot of good stuff here and you really hit home on few of the points. I particularly liked your suggestions regarding size. You are absolutely right that the shipping cost for a small amount of tea can really offset things. However, unlike tea bags, it becomes a much bigger challenge trying to figure out how to package 10 grams of loose-leaf tea. Nonetheless, we are working hard and currently looking into a way to offer sample sizes of our teas so stay tuned!

Shinobicha:

Please send me a message so we can get you your tea.

Thanks.

Jian

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You’re welcome!
Yeah, wow, I hadn’t thought about the fact that it would be a lot more difficult to package 10 grams of loose tea! I’ve seen it done, but didn’t think about the mechanics involved.

I thought of two other things I wanted to mention:
1) One the home page or tea selection page, you might consider having a list of all of your teas on a sidebar for quick and easy access (for example, see on this page the links to all the teas on the left http://www.denstea.com/ ). I can see why you wouldn’t choose to do that (especially on the home page) for style reasons, but it could be helpful on the Tea Selection Page.
2) I noticed another thing—on ‘Our Story’ at the end you wrote: “Soon after my realization, my fiancé and I decided to establish The Tea Valley Company.” For male, you use “fiancé”, and for female the spelling is “fiancée.”

Great catch on the “fiancée”. I will get that changed soon :)

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Wow, everyone covered most of it!
-I also love the colors
-I do not like your use of iframes (see FAQ page, oolong page, benefits page) as i expect to use the browser scroll bar not one on the page
-I want a way to get to the other tea types if I decide i made the wrong choice (for example i am on oolong and want green) without having to go back to the main tea type selector
-ditto on the fabulous photos
-I like the our story and homepage opening introduction, it makes it less corporate and more “local shop” feeling
-i love all the information on the “learn more” pages
-I like the paypal checkout

Hey AmazonV,

Thanks for the great feedback. We have plans to remove the iframes since it doesn’t deliver a super user experience. I also like your comment about navigation issue between the teas. I will certainly look into including maybe a second layer menu.

Thanks!

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Hey Everyone,

Thank you for the overwhelming number of great replies and suggestions! Just want to remind everyone that the contest will end this week Saturday so be sure to get your two cents in if you haven’t already done so. It is ok if your opinion is similar to what others have said. It just reiterates to us that the mentioned issues are something that need to be addressed.

Thanks again guys!

Jian

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Elyse said

Well i’m kinda a novice here, so i’m not sure how helpful my suggestions will be but here goes.
I love the look of the site. It feels really cozy. And the photographs are beautiful, I wish i could get some of these in a picture form and hang em on my wall.
I really like the information that you included with the teas. The descriptions are very thorough. As a novice on alot of tea sites I feel that they already assume you’re a tea conniseur, and know what everything should taste like by the name. So i really like that you included a description of the taste. The way the description is written makes it sound like a friend recommending a favorite tea, rather than a store listing a product. All the information about how to store the tea is great for begginer tea drinkers like myself. That being said the long chinese names get kind confusing trying to remember a tea I wanted to try. I think english translations under the chinese would make it easier to go back to a tea i was thinking about later.
Some of the sizes seemed different going from different teas, some were 60 grams, some were 40, 80, others 125. I don’t know why that is, perhaps you are remarketing prepackaged teas from another company idk. If that’s the case you can ignore this paragraph. But if i were going to order a bunch of different teas, personally I don’t want to sit and figure out which size for each tea will work for me.
Best sellers list’s are always awesome. And i’m sure you’re going to expand your range of products later.
I think you should advertise about your shipping more, rather than on the FAQ page. I don’t think flashy advertisements on the side would suite you very well for your site. Would seem to commercial and ruin some of the beauty of it. Maybe you could have a small banner across the top under your company logo. You could have it change as people are surfing, and have interesting facts about tea as well as special promotions, and your shipping deals. Although i have no idea the computer programming involved in this so that may be ridiculous.
On the oolong page where you have alot of teas on one page, having the scroll bar in the middle of the page is kinda annoying. Especially cause their is so much more white space to work with. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I hate using a scroll in a page, i’d rather scroll down the whole page.

Typos/Spelling Errors
On the Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun-Don’t be fooled the tea’s color. Should be Don’t be fooled by the tea’s color perhaps.

That’s all I’ve got for now, Hope that helps.

Elyse,

Thanks for the feedback. Novice advice is still advice, nonetheless, and very important to us. It’s true that we don’t want the site to look too flashy, but advertising our low shipping costs might be beneficial. I think you are right about putting in English translations for names. My fiancee is still working on how to say them properly in Chinese and definitely seconds the suggestion. :)

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Beautiful site, first of all. I love the picture on the front page.

- The front page doesn’t really look like a shop… more like an informative site. It may be nice to have something on the front (a best seller, or a deal, etc). that catches the eye. When I first went to the site it took me a moment to figure out where the teas were.

- Being from Canada, one of the first things I want to know is does a shop ship here, and how much is it. This information would be nice in a separate page, rather than buried in the FAQ.

- There may be a few too many “clicks” to get to actually buying a tea. For example, when I click on green tea, it would be nice to be taken directly to a page that shows prices/weights for all the different varieties. It makes it easier for me to compare.

- As someone said above, English translations for the tea names would be useful for us beginners who do not recognize the Chinese names.

- The tea pictures are BEAUTIFUL, and I love the sidebar with the instructions (especially the shelf life!)

- You only take paypal? This may be a problem for some that do not use it.

- Overall, it is a beautiful site, and I am sure you will tweak it many times. Good luck!

Hey thewaterbird,

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. I really like your first point about the front page being somewhat confusing. We wanted to convey our philosophy up front but visitors may not get right away that we sell tea. I will look into modifying our home page.

Thanks!

Jian

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