JetPens, take one
May 13, 2008

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Mike Rohde made a comment about a great site he'd discovered, JetPens. Always on the lookout for the next sweet pen, pencil or marker, I headed over.

I have been looking for a simple pencil case that I like for about two years now. I've made do with some hard glasses cases (too short), a soft leather roll-up case in which the pockets were not big enough for the pencils and a host of other things. Nada trabajó.

Discovering JetPens led me to a beautiful pencil case that I have actually enjoyed. I also picked up a new white pen which I plan to use this week and a nifty new (okay, new to me) kind of water colours called Aquash.

Then Mike Twittered me again. JetPens was looking for a blogger to review their site and products - would I be interested?

Since, to be honest, I was planning on at least linking to them (if not actually writing about the site) when I finally got around to using my Aquash water colours, naturally I jumped at the chance to review the site and some products in exchange for some pens.
So, full disclosure here: they sent me some pens to play with and to review - and in exchange I'm writing two posts about them. One about the site (today's post), and I'll be writing another one going through each of the pens they sent me. Before I can do that one, I have a project I have to finish - hopefully this week. Oh, and also? If I hadn't already liked the site, I'd have turned this "gig" down. They didn't ask for a favorable review - they put no restrictions on this review and did not even ask to see it before I published it. If you've read my blog long, you know this - I ain't gonna sugar-coat it. Happily, there was no need to do so here as I was already a pretty big fan of the site.

JetPens LogoFirst, I have to say that not only do I love their li'l logo guy, but I adore the site layout. Far too many art supply e-commerce sites are just too darn busy or messy. I enjoy perusing dickblick.com for the breadth of products they offer - but they need a complete site re-design as they are simply not easy to navigate. JetPens, on the other hand is easy to navigate and has a nice, clean look.

NOTE: if you're not interested in web design, click here and you'll drop down the page just a hair so as to skip my gushing over their design.
As a web designer, one of the features that impressed me about their site is the multitude of ways to browse - without being confusing. There's a left hand text navigation which sits below the search feature. That's generally where I start surfing, but JetPens also has a nice photo-browse set-up. Just below the tabs at the top of the site, they have a featured item and below that a Selection Guide in text links.

I love this Selection Guide. They've kept it small, to the point and fun. The first category is "I want..." and below that are 5 text links to popular categories of pens. Next to that is "I am a(n)..." and below that are 5 categories of people who might be looking for specialist pens or sets. The last category is "I want something..." with the choices being cute, elegant, ergonomic, rare, retractable.

Below the Selection Guide text links are small photos of different categories they offer - anything from fountain pens to highlighters to cases.

Okay, so they've got a tight design for their site - but that really only indicates how much thought they've put into their business - where's the follow-through? They've got a great selection of product. AND, unlike a lot of art supply sites I've frequented, JetPens allows you to enter a review of the products you've used - so you have a good idea what it is that you're ordering.

In addition, they've also got a Penpedia - this section of the site has videos and articles demonstrating or talking about various products. You can watch a short video on just how the NeoCritz Transformer pencil case opens up and stand on your desk. (I think the video was perhaps 15 seconds at most.) An article with great photos shows you how to "hack" a particular pen to use a different type of ink refill. One of my favourites is a nice image showing you just what different pencil hardnesses look like on the page. That used to drive me crazy when I was using a .3 technical pencil as the leads I purchased were usually 4H or 2H at best - and my teachers always complained that my work was too light for them to read.

They've got a forum for building some community - in short, this is a solid site selling some really solid products and they know what they're doing online. Too often, I see a specialty site who uses the default Yahoo Store and whose web design skills are back in the mid-90s. JetPens isn't like that. They're smooth and solid.

Their shopping cart applies the same good web and GUI design as the rest of the site. And, always a bonus in my opinion, they take PayPal.

And, they ship their items FAST. I expected my first purchase to take up to 5 days to get here since I did not choose one of the speedy (more expensive) delivery methods. Nope, was here in a couple of days.

The email notifications were easy enough to read and some of them are funny - worth reading instead of skimming quickly and tossing in the appropriate mail folder. I'd like to see them expand their copy writing on those emails a bit more and make all of them worth actually reading instead of verifying the shipment info. (Not long messages, mind you, but a couple of silly and friendly sentences.)

Some of my favourite stuff from JetPens:

  • white pens - they've got a wide variety of these in different widths and consistencies
  • gel pens - I have a distinct weakness for these and they have some really nice ones at reasonable prices - and, impressive to me, in a wide variety of colours and thicknesses
  • good quality stuff - including my very beloved Sakura Micron pens - sadly, they don't carry Copic art markers ... but then they don't carry Prismacolor art markers either.
  • a nice blend of good, writing pens - and some nice art stuff. It's unusual for me to find such a nice blend of product

Seriously, if you like good pens (which does NOT necessarily mean expensive, btw) - you should at least browse their site and decide for yourself.

Posted by Red Monkey at May 13, 2008 11:13 AM | Sketches | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

r.e.wolf said:

JetPens rocks! Best, and maybe only, place to get uber-fine gel pens, short of living in Japan.

May 13, 2008 2:57 PM

 

Nola said:

That IS a beautiful pencil case. Good review. Going to check 'em out! Thanks.

May 13, 2008 10:23 PM

 

Dan Leone said:

Fantastic review! I went, and subsequently drooled profusely, to that site when you first mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely LOVE this site!

I found some really cool mechanical pencils, of which I am a fanatic. I have never seen a 0.3 lead and wanted to order a couple or a million. The there lead holders are also cool.

Since I am alloted only one fetish at a time (as mandated by "She who must be obeyed"), I chose to save my money to add to my wine collection. But, as soon as she blinks, I am going to add this to my collection of "office porn."

Thanks for the review, Ender.

Me

Red Monkey says: Heh. I was addicted to my .3 mechanical pencils from the time i discovered it in jr high through the first few years of college. (this is what happens when your mom takes art classes and haunts the art/drafting stores) only drawback was not finding the lead in darker colours.
and hey, i'll get her to blink ...
May 14, 2008 6:15 AM

 

Nita said:

And JetPens is the only place I've been able to find Pentel Pocket brush pens (outside Japan) at such a great price. And indeed, their shipping is SUPER fast--makes me wonder what all the other companies are doing to be so slow.

May 19, 2008 8:10 AM

 

Jean said:

I love jetpens, having spent a fortune there. I also recently stumbled upon jstationery.com, which offers the same cool japanese pens plus some that jetpens doesn't carry. Nice to have 2 places to shop.

May 23, 2008 5:43 PM
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