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barbara K! - tool shed?
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  Barbara K
barbara K!
tool shed?
by Anthony Zumpano
June 8, 2009

Barbara Kavovit needs a contractor.

Not to fix a leaky faucet or hang a curtain rod, tasks easily accomplished by her barbara K! brand of women-friendly tools, a brand she discussed on our site a few years ago. It’s her website—with sparse information, blah design, broken links and a muddled message—that’s in need of repair.

For a brand that offers “tools for women,” the obvious question regarding the site would be, well, where are the tools? An image of one of her kits appears on the homepage, but it’s hard to identify which one it is. There are no product descriptions to be found, and clicking on any tool image on the how-to projects pages, such as the three needed to install a programmable thermostat, delivers a broken link. (Other bad links appear on the online resources page.)

Though the homepage banner features a cheerful headshot of Kavovit and a vague and overused but catchy and somewhat empowering tagline (“If I can do it, so can you”), the look of the page is marred by two banner ads. The ads, one vertical and one horizontal, have nothing to do with do-it-yourself home repair and include those acai berry ersatz blogs (like that are basically scams and have been clogging the Web lately. These banner ads, which are sometimes animated, are the most eye-catching/distracting parts of the page and are poorly shoehorned into the site, making the site resemble a personal Geocities page from an earlier online era.

The company-information section comprises two pages that detail Kavovit’s personal background and her brand’s history but lack sales figures, a more complete brand story and a timeline regarding when each set of products was launched. Here would be a good location to list the line of tools, any updates or improvements to the tools and what makes them appealing to women.

The aforementioned how-to projects are helpful but are too text-heavy to be Web friendly. A few images to illustrate each project, or perhaps a video—such as those complementing her projects posted elsewhere—would improve the look of the site as well as further assist users, who are likely first-timers at these kinds of maintenance. (One additional quibble: the How-to Project of the Week, according to the homepage, has been the same project for at least two weeks straight.)

Barbara K The News section, which doesn’t contain any press releases, is alarmingly anemic. It’s been a while since this section was updated, at least in terms of the most recent year for each media mention:

• Television: 2005
• Mainstream magazines: 2007
• Newspapers: 2007
• Online media: 2006
• Radio: 2005
• Trade publications: 2006

Has the brand been unable to get coverage lately, or has someone been failing to update the site? A lack of press for at least two years gives the impression of a brand in decline.

After touring the site, an overall question remains: What is the focus of the barbara K! brand? Is it the tools, or Barbara K. herself? In many respects, Kavovit is a down-to-earth Martha Stewart who tackles tasks, like replacing a showerhead, that Ms. Stewart would deem too pedestrian to handle herself. Kavovit herself is such a part of her brand, yet the site doesn’t really push a “barbara K! lifestyle” that you’d expect from a Martha-like brand. But we don’t learn much about the tools, either, leaving visitors with just some how-to projects, dated press coverage and book info.

A far better example of online-branded “tools for women” is Tomboy Tools, which boasts a better slogan (“Learn today. Teach tomorrow. Build forever.”) and a cleaner, more useful site. The news section has press releases, television coverage as recent as March (2009!) and even a monthly online newsletter, the Tomboy Tribune. What makes Tomboy stand out is its focus on community, from its active forum to its “tool party” promotions to its liberal use of photos featuring lots of different women, none of whom seems intimidated by leaky faucets or creaky floorboards.

Not only can you view product descriptions, you can buy those tools directly from the Tomboy site—barbara K!’s site lacks a list of retailers where you can even find its products. And though Tomboy’s About Us section is not much wordier than barbara K!’s, it’s focused and clear, explaining its mission statement and briefly recounting the brand’s evolution.

Barbara Kavovit is knowledgeable, plucky and personable, and it’s hard not to root for her brand. It’s just disappointing that her online home is such a fixer-upper.


Anthony Zumpano lives and works in New York.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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barbara K! - tool shed?
 Things don't get a whole lot better when you click through to her blog. Although to be fair at least that saw a new post in Feb 09.My impression from her site 
Ed Stivala, Director, n3w media - June 8, 2009
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