Volume 43 Number 5
Website of the Month: Swimming Pool and Spa Websites -- Safety First Where the Water is Deep
Still, for people looking to have a pool or spa built in their backyard, a lot of technical details can't be overlooked? Many people get pools built in May to have them ready for a cool dip by July or August. Where do you turn? What questions do you ask? How do you protect yourself against chicanery of cracks or an incompleted project? After the pool is built, what kind of products do you need? Which ones are necessary and what's just a waste of money?
Well, the big "Dubya" in this column -- the World Wide Web -- offers a plethora of resources for all levels of Internet surfers, floaters to water chemists. And whether your cash that otherwise might have been spent on backyard watersports vanished in the stock market "correction" of the past year or was safely tucked away in money market or bond funds, you should be able to find a site below that fits the bill(fold).
In essence, the site is divided into three sections. The first part discusses care of your pool. Second, a technical section explains various terms and testing your pool water. The last section is for those still contemplating the idea of purchasing a swimming pool.
Behind the site
Tips on basic pool care are given. Three main ones are maintain free chlorine levels, superchlorinate with shock chlorine and closely monitor the pH. No, these aren't ground-breaking news flashes, but the site strives to keep things simple. A maintenance program for pool chemicals and hardware also are provided. Near the bottom of the page is a glossary of about 30 terms in alphabetical order.
Last, the site gives three reasons for buying a swimming pool. According to the site, the No. 1 reason is to keep fit. Perfectly understandable. No. 2 says the pool serves as a "social cachet." Often true, but they couldn't think of one other good reason to put before status? Anyway, the third reason is for entertaining children. A little hokey, but the whole idea is to promote swimming pools. The site gives a cost breakdown of various pools from "above ground splasher pools" to in-ground concrete pools. Estimated prices are given in pounds. Have no fear, it translates into anywhere between US$435-to-43,500. Who said "social cachet" was cheap.
The site hits on many interesting areas, but fails to deliver a big splash on any of them aside from water analysis. Overall, the site comes off as more technical than anything else. It's not the kind of site that makes you want to go out and get a pool tomorrow. Then again, I've heard it's cloudy a lot in England.
The first thing that struck me was the inviting "how to select a pool" button at the top of the home page. According to the site, factors to consider before buying are price, maintenance requirements, installation and service. Pretty basic stuff, again, but you've got to start somewhere. A product directory lists things from toys/floats to gazebos and, of course, will direct you to the proper business in each category. An online water analysis is also offered. Six trade associations are provided with direct links to their home pages (see FYI).
As expected, visitors are invited to pose pool questions to a panel of experts. A snazzy little function allows you to calculate the volume of your pool. Pool owners will tell you maintaining a pool can become an expensive excursion. What other options are there? How about DIY (do it yourself)? Nine service tips for various categories are presented. Professionals from around the country share their experiences with visitors. The advice is clear and informative.
Overall, the site makes it easy to maneuver to where you can view all information from the home page. In other words, nothing is hidden behind some obscure button. A couple of the interactive features need work, but the amount of information at your fingertips outweighs the negatives.
The benefits of a spa and pool run the gamut for different people. Some want something for social situations while others see it as a luxury item that symbolizes the axiom, "You've made it," to a degree. You can add to the list things like exercise, source of relaxation, adding value to your property, etc. The point is making the right choice for your needs and making it a decision that doesn't result in dry returns.
Synopsis -- Treading Water
On the surface: Both sites have home pages that can be navigated with relative ease. The edge here goes to poolspa.com, which features plenty of direct links and packs a punch in a small amount of space.
Shallow water: You can always pick on something about any website. In these cases, the shortcoming for ftech.net is a rudimentary glossary and a lack of depth in some informative areas. Poolspa.com, on the other hand, has interactive difficulty that needs attention.
The deep end: As a consumer, ftech.net is a useful tool that stays impartial and lays a good foundation before one heads out in search of a pool or spa. If you own a pool or spa business or need a certain product, poolspa.com generally assumes you know the basics and gives more hands-on knowledge.
FYI -- Pool and spa sources online
IPSSA -- Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (www.ipssa.com)
Aqua Magazine (www.aquamagazine.com)