Permobil launches new Web site

Permobil USA has unveiled a new Web site designed not only to turn heads in the rehab industry, but also to aggressively keep pace with the most innovative sites on the Internet today.

Barry Steelman, Permobil’s marketing manager, was part of the global Internet team charged with reinventing the power chair manufacturer’s Internet presence. “The biggest thing is we’re a company that sells motion and mobility," Steelman says. “Our (former) site did not move. It was very static. So we decided we wanted to do something that had some excitement to it, that had some motion to it.”

As a result, Permobil’s American site — the first new one to be completed due to the size of the American division — is packed with animation, color and music. Six chairs — C300 Corpus, C350 Corpus, C400 Corpus, Street Corpus, K300 PS Jr. and C500 RS — are spotlighted in an online “showroom” that includes an animated barbecue grill, a sand castle, a traffic light and even a swimming goldfish.

“We decided we wanted to show the chairs in environments, instead of showing the chairs on a white background," Steelman says. “We wanted to show the chair in an environment, and that it’s coming to life.”

By clicking on a particular chair, visitors are taken to corresponding pages that give more product details, spec sheets, order forms and color and fabric choices. The site emphasizes interaction: Visitors can “design” chairs by choosing shroud colors and upholstery fabrics, and can watch live-action demonstrations of power functions such as tilt and recline.

The new site also is built to be accessible on a very practical level. For instance, the four main Product sections — Wheelchairs, Seating Systems, Electronic Systems and Accessories — are reachable by clicking anywhere on the large accompanying photos.
“We did do research, and there are standards for disabled users,” Steelman says. “That’s one of those standards — the whole body of copy needs to be a clicking point so they’re not having to pinpoint where they click. That’s why (we) did that.”

At the same time, Permobil’s Internet team also wanted to design a site that would stand out, even compared to sites outside the rehab industry.
“We wanted to create an environment that would keep people at the Web site,” Steelman says. On top of the animation and sound effects, developers added playful visual details and included Easter eggs — see, for instance, if you can spot the tiny Swedish flag planted in honor of Permobil’s heritage, or the tranquil flower that momentarily turns fanged and carnivorous.

“There’s a lot going on, and you want to play around and stick around to make sure that you’ve seen everything,” Steelman explains. “We wanted to create the kind of Web site that people wanted to be on. We were looking past our industry; we wanted one of the best Web sites, period. We wanted to have a very creative Web site, period.”

The new American site is just one part of a much larger Permobil marketing presence, Steelman adds. “Moving forward, you’re going to see a continuous look from Permobil in our Web site, our printed material, our ads — something that you haven’t seen in the past, and that’s continuity. What you see on the Web, you’ll see in print and you’ll see in handouts. It’s basically creating a continuous look for Permobil.”
Permobil’s North American headquarters are in Lebanon, Tenn. To visit the rehab manufacturer’s new site, visit

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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