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You're Killing Me, Zappos (metalabdesign.com)
67 points by metalab on Sept 9, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments

This redesign is what happens when a designer dabbles in sales without understanding what he is doing. The original zappos site does not have massive and obvious sales pitches, and the redesign brings in two huge and annoying sales pitches.

Just because you know how to style html and use photoshop does not mean you are an expert in selling goods to customers. This designer just added two huge banners that will likely lose the company a large amount of money.

Testimonials are turn-offs. Don't put two huge testimonials at the top of the page, your website looks then like an advert. And people don't love companies that are trying to force a product down their throat.

This redesign actually makes me angry - it's rare that a redesign has this ability to do that. So, designer, if the aim of your redesign was to create customer rage, then feel free to touch your nipples in ecstasy, because you succeeded.

I think that's a bit harsh but I guess his tone called for it.

Anyways, his redesign is indeed visually heads and shoulders above the original. Bigger fonts, bigger buttons, clearer section delimiting. It's just so much easier on the eyes.

Zappos should revert (most of) his content changes and adopt the graphical changes, that would be a win-win.

Great shopping experience is not having an awesome interface so that I can browse all day long.

Ultimately, customer satisfaction comes from getting the greatest value/deal in the least amount of time. No body actually enjoys the act of shopping. Just ask your mom or girlfriend how they feel when they spend hours shopping and come back empty handed.

Perhaps the author redesign could enable faster transaction. It doesn't sound like he's going for that direction though.

Great shopping experience is not having an awesome interface so that I can browse all day long.

No, great shopping expirience is having an awesome interface that helps you to find what you're looking for as fast as possible.

Big text, big buttons and a clean layout help a lot.

Notice what he did to the blue button bar at the top? This is one of the changes that should get adopted immediately, it's a no-brainer. It looks better and works better than the original.

Here is my response to the letter (I head up UX at Zappos) http://tinyurl.com/rcrz3o

Torn between voting you down for overreacting with claims of anger and rage, and voting you up for "feel free to touch your nipples in ecstasy". What to do?!

Just comment.

i don't recall reading where he claims it will sell more. you're defending status quo on this, but in reality, i'm sure zappos had to try a lot of different things to get where they were. so did a lot of companies. and yet you're criticizing this designer for the very thing you're doing: making a bunch of claims, which you can't really back up (or if you have, i haven't seen it).

really, testimonials are bad? i think if done right, they can actually provide some merit. maybe it's just placeholder text right now--but who knows, maybe the new york times found something compelling about zappos, beyond that they just "f*ing sell shoes!" (dhh reference)

i thought the design rocked, and this would definitely improve my perception of zappos.

It doesn't matter if he claims it will sell more. If it sells less, it's self-evidently D.O.A. Don't move the goalposts.

You seem to miss the point I think.

Andrew is a web UI designer and a very talented one at that.

It's easy to see that he was focusing on user experience from a design point of view. He also did not come along saying "this design will sell more".

I hope you can see my point.

what is the point of "user experience" on an ecommerce site if it doesn't boost sales?

"what is the point of user experience"

... What is the POINT of user experience

This is why there are so many badly designed sites out there.

Hey Max,

I'm Andrew, the guy who did it. The key thing that I want to drive home is that their execution stinks. I figure they know how to sell their product - they did $1 billion in sales last year - but the site itself is incredibly sloppy.


You're missing the OP's point, which (not to put words in the OP's mouth) is:

1 - A design does not exist in a vacuum. It is there to do something (in this case, sell shoes). It is impossible to separate good design from its contextual purpose - and in this case he is suggesting that you are (apparently) unqualified to fairly judge Zappos' design, not being from a sales background and all. Assuming you don't have sales experience, I would be inclined to agree.

2 - Zappos' purpose is to make money selling shoes. Would your UI push more sales? If so, then there's cause to look at your design. If your UI will decrease sales, then why in the flipping world would anyone consider your design? There is also no such thing as "no difference" - all UI changes, however minor, impact conversion and sales.

Personally I object to the presumptuous and condescending tone that this redesign is done in - you're assuming that Zappos is staffed by a team of idiots who couldn't care less about clean web UI. I don't work for Zappos, but given their success (and their site) I highly doubt this is the case. Making something web-2.0 does not automatically make it better.

I also happen to agree with OP that the testimonials are annoying and interrupt flow - customers are here to look at the store's offerings, not hear testimonials. Put it somewhere less intrusive. If I walk into a restaurant, I'd expect to hear about the menu - not what their ratings is on Yelp. The testimonial is also so often abused by nefarious ne'er-do-goods that its mere presence raises suspicion in users.

Your search box also removes functionality by completely tossing out search parameters - which IMHO demonstrates your lack of consideration for the specifics business requirements of the company (something many UX people do but will never own up to). The "search by" feature I would gather is very important to shoe buyers.

This post is already getting long, but I need to hit another point: you started your entire post with a very confrontational "why is your website a confusing mess"?

And then you fail to make any meaningful changes to the UI. The tab-based navigation is identical save for some padding and sizing changes. The product selection columns are identical. The search box is identical save for your decision to remove search features. The general layout is identical, in fact, save for your decision to add in the testimonials - how does this reduce confusion, exactly?

If you're going to make loud, bold-letter claims about the confusion inherent in a design, at least make the effort to change the design, as opposed to give it a slick font-and-button-texture makeover?

Also notice that the redesign removes the featured products from the front page. Zappos carefully selected these with the intention of driving conversion directly from the landing page.

The redesigned front page makes customers navigate to one of the category links or to perform a search before they encounter any actual products.

The attempt to simplify the UI and the focus on the company's culture may be good ideas when you're offering a service, but aren't really appropriate for a retail site.

Compare Zappos other successful online retailers, such as Amazon, Buy.com, etc. and you will see similar busy layouts, and pages designed to draw the eye to product offers instead of "this is why we're special" commentary.

I wish this post was the root, because I agree with it more and didn't have time to type it out myself.

I liked the graphical feel of the changes made. Clearly, there's good visual design acumen happening.

But let's take an example, Mr. Designer:

Under search, they have (fairly ugly) little text links for common searches: "shoes", "narrow shoes", "wide shoes."

There's probably a very good reason for that, if they're doing any of the same data-mining that amazon.com does. Likely, users are frequently looking for narrow or wide shoes, but are getting frustrated because they're unsure how to filter for those things.

It's very likely that those text links remove a common obstacle to users purchasing narrow or wide shoes.

In other words, this is a specific example of how your attempt at a redesign would cost zappos money.

An additional consideration that is inevitably part of the compromises that make up final design is SEO. When the original has a link with anchor text 'More Women's Clothing', it's there for a reason. A simple 'More >>' link may be more elegant for the UI, but completely dismisses a key component of Zappos' search strategy.

Final design is a compromise between pure design aesthetics, usability, conversion, site speed, SEO, branding, etc. For the larger business' stake, stakeholders in all of these disciplines need their voice to be heard.

I head up UX at zappos, here is my response: http://tinyurl.com/rcrz3o

IMHO your execution stinks way more, and is itself sloppy to boot. I found your design neither visually appealing, nor usable. And the drama-queen wording of your title was uncalled for. Your credibility has been diminished.

  "their execution stinks" vs "they know how to sell their product"
Are you rational Andrew ?

As a marketer, I can write (or at least identify) good copy. I like to think I have a grasp on what works and what doesn't. You can make a website that's both aesthetically pleasing AND converts well. Insane, right?

I get where Andrew is coming from here. Zappos' website feels insanely old and I'm sure many people get turned away because of the design and never get a chance to know how awesome zappos as a company really is.

ie. My mom would sign up for Facebook.com before she touched MySpace, even if she didn't know the difference between them, just because of the better facebook design and execution on the sign-up page.

On the other hand, they're really well known and continue to grow and what the majority of you are arguing is 'why touch it if it works?' Which is the wrong way to look at it. You should be asking 'how can I make this a better experience for my customers?'

The two aren't mutually exclusive. Apple does both, why can't Zappos?

Apple's site doesn't have to focus on discoverability. Compare for example, Apple's store section vs. their actual product pages - the former is a lot busier and "harder to navigate" than the latter. When you get into the business of selling a bunch of stuff in a discoverable way, your design needs change.

Keep in mind also that the Apple Store sucks at discoverability for non-Apple products - Apple does a marvellous job funnelling you towards the MacBooks and iPods, but a poor job exposing, say, third-party accessories. This works great for Apple, but would be instant death for a company whose entire bread and butter is selling third party goods.

Now consider that Apple has how many core products? What you see on the root store page is it. Everything Apple makes and sells is right there. Now compare with how many products Zappos is in charge of selling and you start seeing the scale difference.

You are comparing apples (no pun intended) and oranges.

Because according to Andrew, they make $1 billion in sales. The site is making a lot of money with the existing design. I can see why they don't want to fix what is not broken.

Yeah. "Our customers love us" makes me think, "Oh really?! They don't hate you?" And I always assume customer stories are a lot of bull written by staffs.

Good customer service has to be experienced, or shared by the word of mouth, not told by the vendor. Zappos already did well in that department, don't ruin it.

Not sure his design is much better, actually I prefer the original. Look at Amazon, ugly as shit and works amazingly.

This exact same argument was being shouted from the rooftops by the people who claimed MySpace would always be better than Facebook, and clean design didn't matter. Everyone thought they could get away with lack of structure and threw their hands up in the air when it came to things like "usability" and "aesthetics." I wrote about this on Go BIG Network before Facebook traffic surpassed MySpace's, and I see the same thing going on here.

I understand most of you out there are programmers, some of you may not share the level of appreciation that i do for things that can look nice and are usable--but this guy's design is vastly better than what they've got now. Kudos for his work.

"I understand most of you out there are programmers, so you share very little appreciation for things that can look nice and clean"

Hey now, careful with the blanket statements. Some of us hackers actually do care deeply about usability and aesthetics, but "clean" doesn't always mean "better" - despite many UX people's unfounded insistence.

I work for a company that shall remain unnamed, but we do a ridiculous amount of testing for every little UI change. Conversions, sales, and a whole ridiculous slew of variables are tracked in extensive A/B testing for every UI design.

Our app doesn't look like much, but it's also the proven design - and we have the numbers to back it up.

I'm all for usability and aesthetics, but when you're arguing that your clean-looking design, which follows all the usability theories in the book, is better than one with a long track record of successful metrics, you better have some numbers of your own.

In the end Zappos' business is not clean, pretty UI. It's generating sales. If clean, responsive, usable UI leads to that (and it most certainly does - within reason), then they ought to do that. If it doesn't, then it'd be a dogmatic waste of resources that can be very damaging to the company.

I would bet money that if Zappos implemented this design and measured customer satisfaction on the web site in addition to perceived brand value, both would improve.

Clean is always going to help. You have businesses who will be successful no matter what, because for some reason or another they nailed another part of their business model (such as distribution). But to defend a bad design is a cop out, I'll bet that with all things equal, the better designed web site (both usability and aesthetics) will always win.

"You can't just say "Amazon is ugly and it works.""

And I'm not. I'm saying "Amazon is ugly and it works. We have teams of Web-2.0 guys doing redesigns on every facet of the site day-in-day-out, testing with live customers constantly, and this is still currently the best design - and we are still iterating."

A bit of a mouthful, though.

"I'm sure they could measurably prove that customer satisfaction on the web site and perceived brand value would both increase."

That's just it though. Where I work, we have proven numerically that this is a false assumption. "I'm sure they could prove" is a far cry from "We have proven". This is a problem that is prevalent throughout the UX community I think - a dogmatic worship of several principles without ever sanity-testing your assumptions with large-scale metrics, instead focusing on ephemeral and unreliable things like anecdotal user stories.

"It looks like it works better" and "it works better" are entirely two different beasts. One thing you can say off-hand, the other requires backup.

For what it's worth, I was on your side at one time. I hated "dirty" 90s-looking websites like eBay, Amazon, et al, and I loved the new-age Web-2.0-y stuff.

Then I got this job and got a sneak peek into what the user data actually says. Some things defy common logic - or at the very least, user experience design common logic.

(I had to look at your profile to see if you worked where I do. I don't think you do, but it's hard to say.)

It's absolutely amazing what wins in A/B testing sometimes. Like the parent poster, we do split-run testing continuously and consistently. I often have my own pre-conceived notions of what will win or lose big, and am often proven wrong by the people that matter: the ones out on the interwebs buying our products.

Side, but related, note: watching customers interact with your site in a facilitated session is also very informative (bordering on mind-blowing sometimes). In our new building, we built a specific lab for this, but we used to and you could easily do it via closed-circuit TV. We've found that having one facilitator in the room with the customer (past customer or in our market but not familiar with the site) and the rest of the observers out of sight (but disclosed to the participant beforehand) works the best.

(Many) People think that computers are magic devices, following no discernable rules or patterns. We've had users try to drag this "thing" over there for 3+ minutes (an eternity when you are watching them struggle) and when it finally works they are giddy with a sense of accomplishment and report "I don't know why it finally worked; it's magic!" but they aren't pissed off in any way. (Obviously, we work to improve this experience, but my point is: what you, as a competent accomplished computer user, expect, prefer, want or will tolerate doesn't trump what Joe Main Street wants/expects if he's in your target market more than the readers of HN.)

Take a spin around our website and you may very well see 10 design WTFs, 7 of which likely have statistically significant test results backing them, 2 of which are in test right now, and 1 of which we don't know about or aren't yet testing.

Not as scientific as A/B testing actual conversions, but here's what some people think of the 2 designs. Still collecting answers, but so far a slight preference for the original Zappos site.


Skimming through user comments I see a lot of people pointing out that the original design showed more shoes than the redesign. This is a key point that the redesign author missed completely - Zappos sells shoes, you can't make a shoe-selling website and then spend more time talking about company culture than shoes.

Also interesting are users who point out that the original site has less "ads". People don't see testimonials and "how Zappos rocks" as insightful, they see them as obtrusive advertisements.

A/B Testing works fantastically for small, iterative, changes. It is not the correct tool for assessing sweeping design changes, however. Some sort of a focus group or large survey probably makes more sense for tracking something this big (which may cause substantial lateral shifts in user behaviour).

But social networks like MySpace and Facebook aren't e-commerce sites. That's the whole point. Zappos wants to sell shoes. They probably don't want you on the site for that long. They want you to quickly and efficiently find what you want and buy it.

So a comparison to Facebook beating MySpace with a cleaner UI doesn't really make sense here.

effective vs aesthetic design

One makes money the other just looks pretty, you choose.

Hey man,

I am all about design - but "design" is practical functionality not just theoretical ideas about layout and consistency. The best design for Zappos is the one that generates the most sales - not the one that makes designers happy.

Zappos can surely be improved, like any website, but it is not with gradient images, testimonials and other aesthetic improvements (see comments below for more of the same).

MySpace lost to Facebook because MySpace is a quagmire of anonymous accounts whereas Facebook accounts tend to represent people.

Good design is good, but good usability is better. Name a classified ads site that has a better design than does Craigslist. Now name one that has more traffic.

It's also the exact same argument that Google shouted from the rooftops with their home page.

What's ugly about Amazon? It's a crowded design, but I never had any issue with it.

Take a look here, it is my response to the original post. http://tinyurl.com/rcrz3o

Maybe I'm missing something, but let's summarize the changes:

- De-emphasized search, which is probably the way that at least 50% of the users navigate the site.

- Added a customer testimonials banner that should and would be immediately overlooked by everyone who visits the site, but pushes the product categories down. You're right that the site should have a clear visual hierarchy, but the product categories in this case should be at the top of that hierarchy, not the bottom.

- Added a second brand navigation - I'm not sure why.

- Removed all of the quick links to most popular products, etc. People who scroll down this far on the page have not found what they were looking for in your main product nav, and don't believe they can find it in search. There's no reason to show them a bunch of brands here - rather, zappos' understated text links give them an alternative way to navigate that is clearly lower in the hierarchy. Additionally, i suspect SEO is of major importance to Zappos, so having a link to "wide shoes" on the home page is probably rather important.

- Expanded the section about culture. This would be nice on a site that sold services like an agency site or mailchimp or some such, but is unnecessary with zappos. Most people come to the site looking for a product, not looking to comparison shop retailers.

All that said, your design is more visually appealing. I just wish it had accompanied a post called "My Interesting Alternate Take On The Zappos Homepage" and not "You're Killing Me, Zappos".


Broke the alphabetical brand index control. (too much non-functional whitespace now).

Just way too much header stuff in the redesign too. Pushing content down the page is crazy.

I did like the way the phone number was given a better call-out.

There really isn't a substantive difference. The navigation is pretty much the same. The "Our Customers Love Us" is annoying and distracting. If anyplace, it should be at checkout, not when you are navigating.

I think that our co-founder, Steve Dekorte, did an awesome job creating a truly innovative design for our shopping site: http://stylous.com/

Clearly, having hundreds of perfectly aligned, glossy and drop-shadowed images makes for a much better user experience.

Will this be done in Flash or HTML 7? Giant image maps?

Props for putting a gradient on absolutely everything.

No, you're right. We shouldn't push the boundaries of what we can do on the web, we should always stick to the browser defaults.

Any competent front-end designer could easily figure out how to code this.

Funny, because nearly all of your designs/apps use the same button/gradient/image/border/Gotham/arrow themes for nearly every single UI element. Not saying this is such a bad thing, but it's certainly not pushing any boundaries.

Honestly, I find their new "Zeta" website to be a tremendous improvement that was probably researched heavily by a design team. Basically you took that design, added a couple gradients and pretty icons, and called it "better".

It looks pretty, but did you ever think that maybe that's not /really/ what matters to them?

"All that said, your design is more visually appealing. I just wish it had accompanied a post called "My Interesting Alternate Take On The Zappos Homepage" and not "You're Killing Me, Zappos"."


" they (developers) tried a glossy gradient on a button, and they noticed the traffic went down that day, or conversions sank. so they assume it happens on a grand scale."

This is really not how A/B testing works. There is this small branch of mathematics called statistics which helps us avoid such "one off" errors and is central to A/B testing.

Now A/B testing can (and should) be subject to scrutiny. But know whereof ye speak.

EDIT: The parent entry was deleted so this may not make sense any more.

I don't meant to self-promote, but I'm the founder and CTO of StyleFeeder and we've recently launched some new browsing functionality... so if you're into shoes, we have the whole Zappos collection and a whole lot more available here. I'd be happy to get any feedback from y'all:


Why's this getting voted down? Nothing wrong with promoting something you worked hard on. It's clear from this person's account that he's a regular contributor here, not just a one-off spam link. And it is relevant to the topic at hand.

If you want feedback on your product, don't you think an "Ask HN: Please Review" is more appropriate than derailing this thread? And it's clearly self-promoting, despite the "I don't mean to self-promote..." disclaimer.

Self promotion is fine. If you don't believe in what you do, who else will? One shouldn't be annoying or inappropriate about it, but his comment was neither and if you look at his comment history, it's not like he's spamming the site with links.

I think self-promotion is fine too. In the appropriate place. And I suggested a more appropriate place. I was merely expressing the reasoning behind downvoting a comment like that.

I don't view it as derailing the thread at all. Alternate interfaces to see a collection of shoes seems quite clearly within bounds to me.

Except that every comment below yours doesn't relate at all to the original post, which says something. There's nothing in the original post about the layout and usability of Zappos's shoe collection view or search results layout. The letter's complaint seems to be with the usability of the main landing page. And beyond that you didn't ask for a comparison of your product with Zappos, you asked for feedback on yours. Seems like a clear hijack to me, even if you didn't intend it.

I was wondering the same thing :)

Upvoting for presenting an actual working alternative rather than a juvenile blog post.

Great site & interface! You might get some flak for the use of flash but it works well for this interface.

I thought the scrolling was very smooth, but there was something up with the progress bar, it always bounces back to the initial position when I scrub it.

If it's possible to build something this rich without Flash, I have yet to see how.

The logic for the scroller bar at the bottom is fairly complex. We've done many, many hours of usability testing with this and it actually hasn't posed a problem. But I know exactly what you mean. It's actually not bouncing back to the initial position, but it probably looks like that if you have tens of thousands of products displayed there. Try filtering to see the difference.

Yeah I was scrubbing the initial unfiltered results. I was expecting it to work like a video scrubber though and thought the results should move to where I was scrubbing too.

I was expecting holding down the left and right arrows to have the effect the scrubbing does (Constant scrolling). Currently that doesn't do anything.

Anyhow kudos for the nice interface.

All these re-designs (for the sake of self promotion) are getting a bit much. Lack of good design can communicate as much to the user as good design itself can.

In the instance of 'bargain' sites (Zappos, Craigslist etc.) a deliberate un-design communicates the affordability of the product far more than a slickly designed site would.

I remember visiting the site after hearing about the aquisition; quickly panning it and then leaving again, slightly confused. My gut feeling was "hell no".

With that out of the way, I must say I don't like these sort of open letters. They make the sender seem like a giant douchebag, which I'm in no way stating he that is, but it just doesn't seem fair. Why take the bully approach and pull down their pants in broad daylight? Keep it between you and the company in question.

Beyond that, I must admit that metalab is on to something. Maybe Zappos should listen, just a little bit. If they can and keep their dignity after this.

People really look at iconography? When I look for something, I never look for the icon, I look for the word.

The shape of the word IS the icon.

I would find "Search" as a word many times faster than I would find an hourglass.

So when you glance at your car dashboard do you look for "DEFROST" or "RADIO POWER"? No, you look for cues based on positioning, size, and the icon on the button.

I would love to look for "DEFROST", but I'm not given the choice.

In my car I know the location. In a new car, you try it out. In no case does the icon help very much.

Try figuring out the difference between the icon for the front vs. the rear defrost.

Cars are sold in many different countries. Having a single "Icon" helps reduce the costs of internationalization.

Still think a "Defrost" button would make more sense to me considering how often I use it, I never can find the bugger when I need it.

Exactly. Hieroglyphics went out of fashion a couple thousand years ago, didn't they?

The proposed design does not have a single full image of a shoe above the fold.

But there are no descriptions, and the images are only partially above the fold.

As others have pointed out, there's no good reason for the testimonial banner--why does Zappos need to toot its own horn?

partially above the fold? What resolution are you using that an image 400 pixels down on the page is partially below the fold?

There's a level of irony in the fact that the author of this blog post/presentation frequently scorns other designers for even the slightest likeness to what he considers to be his own design stylings, but he just completely and totally ripped off a blog post format that is so similar to a format that Dustin Curtis has produced and honed in the past that there are users here who are noting it and have even remarked that they looked for his navigation when first coming upon the site.

Good designer. A lot to learn about business.

Paging dcurtis...

I agree -- was immediately looking for the dcurtis navigation and then realized it wasn't him.

Dustin has redefined the blogazine. He should be flattered.

I think others may have done the design per article pre- http://www.jasonsantamaria.com/

Well, he's a little busy flying for a month straight: http://30dayflight.com/ :)

Yeah; I think he should be in the air about now? Also, does anyone know if jetBlue ever got back to him on his request? The 30dayflight page for the letter wasn't updated.

Dear Sir, you suck...... I amz betters. btw, can I has job?


I swear there are more of these every day and his complaints are pretty pedantic. The site is okay as is.

Clever job/contract application/proposal OP, well played.

Why are all the better off and useful sites are getting such "your design is a mess" reviews - Zappos, Craigslist, Amazon. I am sure Zappos has a team dedicated to designing their site to the last pixel.

And an open letter to the CEO? seems familiar from a recent dcurtis post :D

Having never shopped with Zappos before, and having never visited the new "Zeta" site until I saw Andrew's take on it, I think I have somewhat of an advantage in looking at this redesign.

I value functionality much more highly than design. Having said that, both the old site and Andrew's redesign are almost functionally identical in my eyes. They both let me do the same things (the things that I would most want to do when coming to Zappos) in almost exactly the same way.

Sure, Andrew's looks prettier, and as I said it does not negatively affect my usage of the site, but as many of you have already pointed out, if his redesign doesn't bring in more conversions, it would be useless to spend any time or money on it.

Design asthetic is one thing, selling millions of dollars worth of shoes (every day) and serving tens of millions of pageviews (every day) is another. Don't forget one of the most important criteria for any scalable design on a site of this scale: speed. Speed, CDN requirements and caching, image load time, these are more important than how shiny and flashy a site looks at this level. IMO.

my general lack of interest in shopping (or being from europe--difficult to judge from the inside...), i have never actually heard of zappos before the amazon acquisition. could some guys from the us briefly explain what's so great about zappos? i looked at the--admittedly kind of old-fashioned--web-site and it was not really clear what they are selling/doing that made it special...

thanks in advance!

Their return policy is so lenient and customer service so good that you can order 5 pairs of shoes to try on and return four with no problem. And, they all get there within a couple days max.

I've never ordered from Zappos, but I've heard this story from many unrelated people now.

We're all related, you know...

You might be interested in Tony's startup2startup talk: http://startup2startup.com/2009/03/27/tony-hsieh-zappos-in-t...

They have a huge inventory, ship really fast and don't care if you return product. They also did a lot of SEO so you see their sales pages for a lot of shoe related searches. (But that can get you only so far--as I said they ship really fast and don't care if you return.)

The current New Yorker issue has an article on Zappos, pretty interesting: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/14/090914fa_fact_...

Clear case of effective design versus simply aesthetic design--most people prefer to make more money and follow effective design.

Gradients and gloss are not required elements in the web 2.0 era, it's all just fluff at the end of the day--Zappos cares about its bottom line, that's how you start to make a billion dollar company =)

If someone wants to show what an awesome designer they are, I have a bunch of sites that I'd love for you to have a look at. Of course, most of them don't receive so much traffic...

I head up UX and Web Strategy at Zappos, here is my open letter response to that post:


First: Good design and functionality are the same thing. The saying goes form over function, not design over function. If one thing functions better than another, it can be described as better design.

I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that some of the simpler proposed UI changes (better visual separation, bigger fonts, clearer visual distinction of elements, good-sized clickable iconic images) would improve the Zappos site tremendously.

Second: Most of the posts on this page are good examples of what kills me working as a web guy.

Engineers/Analysts want everything down to the color of each link to be data driven, to the point of irrationality. To me it's obvious when a design has been manhandled by this division of a Web team. Not all points of data are meaningful, and data does not know all ("Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case." http://stopdesign.com/archive/2009/03/20/goodbye-google.html)

Developers don't grasp every detail of what good design should be and tend to simplify and marginalize the web designer job. (Although seeing a lot of the "talent" out there, I can understand why this happens a lot. Great web designers are rare, hold on to them tightly)

Designers have a hell of a time describing why their abstract ideas have practical implications. At the same time a lot of designers grow strong opinions and giant egos. It practically comes with the job description. If a designer can't fight for their ideas well enough (most of which being abstract), the get to eat other peoples ideas all day long. Typicaly the ideas of people that have no background in design T_T

There's a balance to this. I know it's out there, and I know it can work. All of these positions are valuable, and they all have their areas of expertise. Why the hell do conversations like this turn into food fights between the Jets, the Sharks and the Goths (ok that metaphor doesn't scale)

Lastly, here's my two cents As a first time viewer of their current site I find the layout of the site confusing. The site seems to have a hard time pulling my attention to any one spot that I care about.

Banner blindness is in full effect on the homepage. The dual sidebar design with all text links seems like a bad choice to me. I didn't start caring about anything until I reached the box with highlighted products with pictures of shoes... But they weren't shoes I cared about since the site knows nothing about me.

The current site is a large chorus of voices all talking at the same volume. However web sites should not be a high school choir, there should be points of interest that stick out for me to sink my teeth into.

Granted, if I realy want shoes from them, it wouldn't be hard to read through their links to find what I want. But the design could make this choice easier and quicker (IMO).

So the gradient love may not be the road to go, that would depend on the audience (although I happen to enjoy a lot of it). Yes this UI is totally possible (even in IE6 gasp) in the hands of a compotent HTML CSS dev, but I imagine there are stricter bandwidth constraints due to the amount of traffic they get.

His IA may not be the right one, but that's why baby Jesus made A>B & multi-variant testing. It's the job of an engineer or analyst to tell the designer where things should go and about how large they should be. He correctly points out a lot of areas that the design is lacking.

This isn't to say Andrew's is the holy grail, but I think it's an interesting stab at quite a few (what I see as) problems.

what a fucking snob

Awesome redesign!

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