Piano makers are
not exactly thick on the ground these days. Today there are perhaps
forty makers who supply the world with pianos (gone are the days when
London alone boasted forty different makers). Of those few only a handful
command general respect: Steinway, Bosendorfer, Baldwin and Yamaha pianos
(and a couple of others) grace concert halls around the world, and are
the instrument of choice of the vast majority of pianists.
But how would their websites compare? Would the legend of Steinway allow
it to rule the web as well as the concert platform? Is Bosendorfers
name about to become better known because of a spectacular web page?
How would the volume manufacturers sites of Yamaha and Baldwin
compare to those of their their smaller rivals? And just how important
is the web when it comes to buying pianos?
is probably the most famous name in the piano world. They have always
made pianos of great quality, and the Steinway sound
is to be heard on the vast majority of recordings of classical piano
playing. So would this feel of quality come over on the Steinway
answer has to be a definite yes. The site displays the famous Steinway
logo; the font used throughout the site is Times New Roman, giving a
feel of class and solidity (if not being exactly novel). Content,
too, was fairly impressive, with a vast archive of information available
(on a different page). I felt that some of the content was, however,
a little out of date (why werent the Winners of the 2000 Van Cliburn
competition listed instead of the 1997?). Although I couldnt find
any broken, there werent many links, and those that
were there were a little random. It was rather as if the developer of
the site had simply entered the word Piano in a search engine
and then linked to the first five sites that appeared.
The graphical content of the site was high; the picture quality excellent,
although I felt it would have been appropriate to have a few more close-ups,
rather than just pictures of the individual models (after all, its
difficult to tell, from a one-inch GIF image, the difference between
a 66 piano and a 76 piano.) Perhaps even a Flash / Shockwave
animations of the key action, or something or how about some
A fun feature the Steinway page had was the ability to send virtual
postcards a feature not apparent on any of the other sites
reviewed here and there were some other nice touches, such as
a Quicktime Video of the latest Tricentennial Art Case piano
(so you could see it from any angle), but why not extend this to others
in the range? I did feel that this was something that could be applied
to the whole site: good design ideas had been initiated, but the site
had got a little out of hand and the developer had not been
able to apply those ideas to the vast amount of information the site
contained. The only information it didnt seem to contain was anything
on prices, but an online piano dealer was quoting about £12,000
for a small Steinway, and a little under £70K for the all-singing,
all-dancing 9 concert model.
Bosendorfers site told much the same story. Again, the site used
a piano black poly background with white lettering, which
initially looked impressive, but was let down by a rather tacky NEW!
spinning graphic which made the main page look cluttered and slightly
cheap unfortunate for a manufacturer of such wonderful instruments.
The content was divided into a rather excessive number of sections (eight
in total -- the Steinway site made use of five, which were easily enough).
I understand there is a difference between Product and Production
but surely, for claritys sake, they could be combined? The site
also seemed to have been done in something of a hurry: Follow
These Fine Links was the heading, but no links were even listed!
Most of the other content was at least up to date, however, with Bosendorfer
News keeping one abreast of the latest factory developments and
the availability of new models.
an Austrian site, you would expect both English and German pages
to be available, and this was, of course, the case; I cannot vouch
for the German content, but it was certainly there. Separate pages
worked more successful than the Bosendorfer SE page
(dedicated to a new digital interface which Bosendorfer are developing).
This contained both English and German side by side; I was still
not quite clear, even after getting to the end of the page, how
the SE worked, and the page looked a complete mess. I can understand
sacrificing design for the sake of content, but there doesnt
seem to be an excuse for having poor content and poor design.
By contrast, Baldwin
(whose pianos are used extensively by jazz pianists) had an extremely
well-presented site which they appeared to have achieved by limiting
the amount of information theyd included. This sounds like a bad
idea, but in practice it worked very well as the designer was able to
apply concepts throughout the site and had not been overwhelmed by a
jungle of data. The site looked clean, well thought out, and was also
pretty fast to load; the graphics were interesting and nicely presented.
Baldwin also avoided using black, which was probably a good idea. The
site had a much lighter feel to it than either of the previous two.
less to work with also enabled the site to be that bit more up-to-date
than the others, and a particularly welcome feature of the Baldwin
page was an artist interview (this month was Ben Folds from the
group Ben Folds Five). There was also an archive facility
which contained previous issues of this magazine-style page, and
of the sites reviewed, Baldwins was the best so far.
This was, however,
before looking at Yamahas. Although initially slow to load, the
site looked fantastic, and of all the sites was the only one to actually
contain sound. An additional plug-in was needed, but once installed
it allows the reader the choice of 10 background tracks
--I particularly enjoyed Track 7 -- featuring a Yamaha piano. Not strictly
necessary, but a very attractive fun feature which youd
expect more of the others to have used as well (they do make instruments,
after all!) In addition to the sound feature, the site also contained
an enormous amount of information about all Yamahas pianos
and other instruments. The content was up to date and well written.
The Yamaha range varies from country to country, and so the site is
broken down by country. The Yamaha UK site was the only one of the four
sites compared here to contain prices (a new Yamaha baby grand starts
at just over £6500 -- £55,000 will buy you the top-of-the-range
concert grand). The site gave the impression of great quality, and,
if I was buying a piano off the Internet, and only had the websites
to go by, Id go for a Yamaha every time, followed by a Baldwin,
a Steinway, and bringing up the rear, a Bosendorfer.
are two reasons why I wouldnt, in real life, buy a Yamaha. Firstly,
Ive already got one. Its a fine piano: I love playing it,
and its very well made. The main reason, though, is that
well, a Steinways a Steinway, isnt it? And lets face
it, the web isnt the place to buy a piano anyway. You cant
replicate that perfectly-weighted keyboard action on a computer console
no matter how many Netscape add-ons you download.
© Oliver Moor
Now what did I do with that spare £70,000?
background music (This
needs a plug-in)