Today’s DIYers have it made — the web is awash with step-by-step guides and how-to resources. Mega-retailer Lowe's may offer the supplies for your weekend projects but does their new home and garden website offer any good advice?As a woodworker, I eagerly hunt down informative new websites, gathering project plans and tutorials to improve my skill set. But when a friend forwarded me a link to Lowe's Creative Ideas for Home and Garden site earlier this week, I was reasonably skeptical. Educational sites run by retailers are often slapdash failures of earnest intent — in other words, good ideas, gone bad. How does Lowe's hold up?
I'll start with the good ideas part. Creative Ideas features a robust library of weekend carpentry and outdoor projects organized into beginner (a patio planter), intermediate (a clothing hamper) and advanced (a demilune table) categories. Each project page details the tools/materials you’ll need and the time/money you’ll spend. Once you’ve downloaded PDF diagrams, step-by-step instructions lead you from start to finish. The site's "Shop Class" section features video tutorials on how to build a deck storage unit and an Adirondack chair. These projects aren’t high-design, but they are perfectly functional and adequately handsome.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Now for the "gone bad" part. When you’re dealing with so much instructional content, effective "information design" is a must. Unfortunately, some of Creative Ideas' cutely-titled navigational tabs are downright superfluous and the pages are far too text-heavy. Most people are visual learners — more pictures of the building process would greatly improve the site's usability. What’s more, instead of hiring an experienced carpenter for their Shop Class videos, Lowe’s chose an actor. For an amateur audience, they might have opted for more professional guidance.
Granted, as a paid-subscriber to Fine Woodworking's terrific site, I may have unfair expectations. After all, the Lowe's site is a free, regularly updated resource. What do you think? Is Creative Ideas for Home and Garden a useful site for you? What are your favorite sites for DIY projects with step-by-step instructions?
Please share your source list and your self-assessed skill level in the comments, below!