What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I seem to be taking the elephants in the room in random order as they dance onto my landscape. This one’s a fairly benign one, a meek and geekly elephant who has his computer hooked up to multiple big screens, eats bland elephant chow while typing away hunched over a tiny keyboard, is fluent in every programming language known to the elephant herd, but has yet to master his own native language. If he were in flash, he would be rotating around so that you don't have to stare at his backside all the time. His wares have been discovered and exploited by the snake-oil salesmen who sell them to unsuspecting victims with the promise that showing gratuitous videos on their websites will make them appear professional and sophisticated.

Here’s the backstory of how this elephant got into my room. I was recently sent some samples of two perfume oils made by Yas, a perfume manufacturer based in Saudi Arabia, and have been testing them. Reviews will follow, since I don’t see any harm or conflict of interest in posting basic information about products that never get reviewed elsewhere (at least not in English). I thought it would be interesting to find out a little background on them, but the Yas website is every bit as aggravating as any European manufacturer’s, all flash and no information. The flash is so overdone that it takes forever to load. It’s one of those websites that requires you to go have a cup of coffee while you wait for something meaningful to appear on the screen. If the wheel in the center of the coffee cup were in flash, it would be rotating ... and rotating ... and ... Once the site does load, there is no information whatsoever about the individual perfume oils, just a rotating flash parade of bottle pictures. I keep my laptop’s sound turned off to avoid being assaulted by music, verbal commentary, or any of the other sound effects that often accompany flash shows, so can’t say if there was any sound track.

But if it looks cool to a geek, it must appeal to the viewer, right? Not necessarily. I’m willing to wait a few minutes for a YouTube video of a snowboarding crow to load, since it’s an oddity of nature that I’d like to check out just for entertainment and to increase my respect and admiration for crows. However, I’m not willing to wait a few minutes for the home page of a perfume website to load.  So what’s the difference? On the one hand, if I expect to watch a video, I know up front that it will take a little while to get going. If there’s an unavoidable commercial ahead of the video, I open another window and do something else until it’s over. When I go to a perfume website or any other commercial website, I expect to find still pages with the information I want easily accessible. It’s analogous to the difference between having to load and watch an entire video from start to finish to get a small bit of information that’s embedded somewhere among a lot of irrelevant stuff versus flipping through a hard-copy booklet to immediately find the relevant information on the page where the index says it is.

Maybe other people have more patience than I do, or maybe they need the visual stimulation of moving objects on their screen. Personally, if I go to a perfume maker’s website I’m generally looking for information about the company, a perfume line, a specific perfume, or just to browse their selection. I’d like to know something about each perfume, where/how to buy it, and how much it costs. Why else would anyone go to a perfume maker’s website? To watch pastel butterflies flitting around on a white screen for five minutes, only to find out that the website just says how wonderful the products are, not what they are or how to obtain them? I would be just as frustrated if I were a retailer wishing to place a wholesale order as I am as a curious individual consumer looking for a sample.

To me, a good commercial website is attractive, uncluttered, easy to read, and easy to navigate. The home page functions both as a general overview and an index that takes you directly to whatever page you want to see and from there to whatever item you want to see, quickly and without fuss. You should not have to scroll down through multiple pages to find the one you want. Sequential processing is easy for computer programs, but it’s maddening to humans. If the quasi-stick figure at the computer were in flash, she would be tearing her hair out. The usual “opposite” of sequential processing is parallel processing, but that’s not really what we, as highly functioning information processing systems, do. I would call it “selective processing”, a sort of an instantaneous gestalt process that allows us to immediately skip the many steps of both the sequential and parallel processes, and pick out from a huge array only those details of interest at the moment. It may not be a popular cognitive or programming model, but it sure saves a hell of a lot of time in the real world. It’s an option that a good website should strive to incorporate.

Another thing that I find puzzling is the existence of commercial websites that function as nothing but billboards, whether moving or still. These are the websites that say, “we are suppliers of …fill in whatever product it is that you desperately want  We supply this product worldwide.” That’s it. They make or obtain it, they supply it, and they provide no clue as to how one goes about buying it. Sometimes there’s a “contact us” window that one can fill out to get a product list, price list, or quote. My experience is that more than half the time these windows don’t work, and even when they appear to do so, half of the time the company never responds. To make matters worse, their telephone number is also non-functional. Isn’t the purpose of having a commercial website to facilitate doing business?

I think I’ve probably ranted more than enough for the day, so will pose the question: What do you like and/or dislike in perfume websites? I don’t mean blogs, I mean commercial sites. I’m always trying to improve the functionality of my site, within the constraints of the system I have to work with, so your comments may well be useful. Leave a relevant comment and be entered in a drawing to win a 5 ml spray bottle of an Olympic Orchids perfume, my choice based on what I have on hand when I do the drawing on Thursday, August 16. 

[All cartoons and photo from Wikimedia]


  1. I've got a suggestion for you, Elly. I noticed it when I bought the Deluxe Sampler from you a few days ago. To find out the price of a sample set, I have to put it in my cart first, which surprised me because your sampler sets are some of the most reasonably priced I've ever seen.

    It's a very small quibble, but I've enountered this practice elsewhere before, and I always get a brief knee-jerk reaction of annoyance and wonder why the price is hid. Put out those numbers in big bold letters: this is a deal you should be bragging about, not hiding! :)

  2. Dionne, I thought there was a pull-down menu for all of the sample sets, showing the price with domestic or international shipping. I had no idea that you had to put it in the shopping cart to see a price! I'll check that and make sure the price is shown up front. I would be annoyed, too.

    I try to keep my sample prices reasonable on the assumption that many people who try samples will go on to buy larger bottles, and the purpose of samples is not meant to be the main source of profit.

    1. Dionne, I've just been through every item on my website and added prices to the descriptions wherever they seemed to be needed. Thank you so much for pointing this out to me!

    2. You are most welcome, Elly, and thanks for being so proactive, it's very impressive. :)

  3. Snowboarding crows!! We had a resident marten in the Alps that liked to slide down the back of our car, leaving little muddy butt-prints all over the windows! But we loved that little guy. Now we have huge, pale geckos in our kitchen! It's always something....
    Yes, websites should be very simple. A few beautiful photos or backgrounds, but NO FLASH!! I hate Flash....

  4. Marla, so it's not just crows that like to slide down slopes, it's martens, too! I love the image of little muddy butt-prints on your car.

    I wonder if there are any people who actually LIKE flash???

  5. I tolerate websites that use flash, but I appreciate when they give the immediate option to go to text/HTML only (eg Neela Vermeire's site). I think flash is really counter-productive on small/indie sites because they rarely have the same production values (due to budget) as some of the major companies.

    And to add to Dionne's comment, the same issue of lack of prices occurs on your soap pages.

    -- Lindaloo

    I had a chance to sample LIL recently. Wow! Amazing opening, and that woman really hangs on.

    1. Lindaloo, I checked the soap descriptions as well as the sample descriptions and you are correct in telling me that the prices don't show up! I had no idea, because my view of the website is a little different from the customer's. I've gone through and fixed everything, I think, but may have missed something. The website management interface is not the most user-friendly. Many thanks to you and Dionne for pointing out this problem. I truly appreciate it.

  6. Flash is a waste of my time. I don't go to a perfume website to be entertained. I usually know exactly what I want to order, either from reading a blog or from experiencing a sample. Sometimes I can be enticed into buying more by descriptions of the perfume components and of course by offerings of complimentary products.

    Regarding the website: Were the prices of samples and soaps always in the text descriptions instead of the pull down menus? Since the samples and soaps are single size/price items it makes sense to put those prices in the descriptive text, but the price is easier to see in a menu. Keep the "wild card' option if you can. Gail

    1. Gail, the problem was that in the single-option items there is no pull-down menu, so no price is visible. I did not originally put prices in the descriptions because I thought they showed up on the item, on the "buy it" button. Wouldn't that make sense? I'll ask the hosting company if that would be possible. The prices aren't on the menu/"buy it" buttons, so I ended up putting them all in the item descriptions tonight.

      The feedback I've gotten is great!!!

      Of course I'll keep the wild card option.