March 2023 Newsletter

**** The 4specs Perspective

Product Selection Guides & Websites

Robert Johnson Miller, CSI, CCS, LEED AP BD+C | Senior Specifier | HGA | Minneapolis, MN

The manufacturer's Product Selection Guide is fundamentally one of the most useful tools for architects and specifiers. All of the manufacturer's products offered for a given category and that products' relevant data listed right next to one another in a single view, arranged in a simple table format, and ideally, in the very printable and shareable Portable Document Format (PDF) that can be marked-up and forwarded to project teammates.

Many manufacturers are dropping this from their available literature, opting for extravagant websites that try to lead us to the one right product without showing us the other options. Some of these websites have really clear and thorough menus, but we still have to click into every product page individually (right click Open link in new tab, right click Open link in new tab, right click Open link in new tab) just to understand and compare the products.

Some of these websites require us to enter detailed project information (square footage, energy requirements, fire-rating, attack-resistance, quantity/size, finish) that we as specifiers might not have readily available to us. And all too often a specifier's search will come to a conclusion at Contact Your Local Rep, which manufacturers understandably think of as an opportunity to provide relevant project-tailored assistance, but feels much more like a dead end to the specifier and their quest for quick answers. At times it can be very inconvenient and frustrating, especially at 1am when still trying to complete a noon deadline. We may only spend a couple minutes on the website before jumping over to some other manufacturer's site that offers this info in a clear format.

While it's understandable that a manufacturer might move towards online info only, to ensure consumers are looking at the most up-to-date info versus the out-of-date PDF's on our hard drives. But my message to the manufacturers would be this: You put together a really informative document that's so useful to me that I've downloaded it to my laptop and I share it with my colleagues, so I'm going to keep using it until the copyright date prompts me to check for a new one. Please keep it up-to-date and available online. (Yes, we always look at copyright dates on your documents.)

Here's how specifiers and their architect colleagues use Product Selection Guides:

Every now and then an architect colleague will ask me How did So-N-So Inc. become our typical Basis of Design? When I stop and think about it, sometimes the answer is simply because that manufacturer published their information in an easy-to-use format, either a Product Selection Guide or an easily navigable web design.

Manufacturers, please consider making your Product Selection Guide available online, ideally in PDF format, hopefully without registering or creating an account. If you've discontinued making such a document available, please reconsider. If you've never really had one and you're not sure where to start, try referencing that cheat sheet you put together for the new regional sales representative, it's probably a good place to start.

Contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.



Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
Contact us