Fashion online: Some things change, some stay the same

This post picks up the thread I started when I posted on what I considered Crimes Against Flashion. In that post, I looked at the websites of Chanel (no change), Balenciaga (change!), Lanvin (minor change) and John Galliano (change!).

Although I didn’t cover their site in my original post, what reminded me to revisit this topic and see what progress had eventuated and how the sites I critiqued had evolved was the launch of  a new design for the Maison Martin Margiela website.

Fashion online: things change, things stay the same

New site, same problems?

After teasers in May:

Maison Martin Margiela released its new website on the 2nd June with due pomp and circumstance:

The Maison’s first site used an original PC formatting style and typeface typically associated with the 80’s. This vintage image, complete with early FTP webpages and retro pop-ups, created an altogether radical and innovative website.

Today, Maison Martin Margiela looks towards the future in employing already existing websites as cyber hosts of its content. While the homepage appears to be dismantled, it actually represents a unique virtual hub, enabling visitors to be redirected to numerous sources of information.

Source: Maison Martin Margiela Facebook Post

The new site maintains the vintage look of the previous incarnation, but now works buy pulling content from the company’s other channels as opposed to pushing content or hosting content unique to the site.

Obviously they didn’t get the “If you need a splash screen to explain your site, you are doing something wrong” memo.  How do I know? Well, there is the splash screen which helpfully explains the ethos behind the site. I have already stated at some length my opinion on splash screens as part of a design meme for fashion websites…no need to repeat the rant.

Segue…

Compounding that sin, the foreground/background colour combination is almost illegible Are vision impaired people not allowed to interact with Maison Martin Margiela content online? Did no one check the colours to be used for colour contrast? Pffft.

There are tools that allow your website designer to do so. A web designer should know where to find these, if they do not then they are not a web designer imho.

If this combination had been checked, it would be clear that #ababab  (the grey foreground colour) on #ffffff (the white background colour) does not meet WCAG accessibility guidelines…Anyhoo, rant over.

Back on track

Splash screen away:

Screen shot –  Splash screen for Maison Martin Margiela website (accessed 3 June 2012)

Hopefully you don’t suffer any sort of vision impairment and have made it into the main site. The main site which is basically a nexus point of aggregated content, presented in Windows style pop ups.

Welcome to the website of the future, Windows aesthetic circa XP/Vista – that won’t date at all and is so relevant to users on Macs or smartphones:

Screen shot: Maison Martin Margiela Home Page (accessed 3 June 2012)

Websites of the rich and the famous – inherent problems on luxury  brand websites

Design critique aside, it does look like MMM has considered some of the points identified by Forrester Research’s benchmarking exercise, undertake on on select luxury brand websites Website Functionality Benchmark 2011: Luxury Fashion Brands – A Social Computing Report.

Forrester reviewed the websites of 5 luxury design houses:

  • Burberry
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Gucci
  • Hermes
  • Louis Vuitton

[The report costs $499 USD, not something I can rationalise the purchase of, but there are several good summaries available.]

Powerretail’s article Forrester: Luxury Brands Fail on Website Functionality reports that all brands scored low in terms of website functionality – the maxium score Forrester award is 65, Burberry was the leader…scoring 13 out of a possible 65.

Powerretail summarised some of the in-depth findings in the report:

  • The websites lack the basic online navigation tools (e.g. sorting and narrowing results in search), merchandising (e.g., video and recommendation engines), and customer support (e.g. consumer-friendly shipping and return policies, live support).
  • The brands have not followed the trend as with other online retailers to encourage community enhancing features (e.g. availability of user-generated photos, videos of products used in real settings or product ratings and reviews).
  • Multichannel functionality (e.g. store locators, in-store collection) was also limited on these sites and channel integration features, such as visibility of store stock or in-store returns of online purchases, were absent.

Speaking exclusively to Power Retail, Steven Noble, Senior Analyst says, “It’s certainly not an unusual result, many brands that started before the era of online retail have been somewhat slow in embracing all the best practices that drive loyalty and conversion online.”

“In the luxury space in particular there has been a perception with brand managers that the internet is not a good fit with the brand proposition or their customer’s priorities. Initially they would have often felt that their customers simply wouldn’t want to purchase their products online and would prefer to go in store and be walked through the products in person,” he continues.

“There is a bit of a catch up going on, we’ve finally reached a point where it’s mainstream for luxury brand marketers to understand that digital and online retail are more than just ‘nice to have’, but actually are ‘must haves’.”

Source: Forrester: Luxury Brands Fail on Website Functionality

Retailers lead the pack, not luxury brands

If you wanted a best practice model of a site that provides the following (as flagged by Forrester):

  • Basic online navigation tools (e.g. sorting and narrowing results in search)
  • Merchandising (e.g., video and recommendation engines)
  • Customer support (e.g. consumer-friendly shipping and return policies, live support)
  • Community enhancing features (e.g. availability of user-generated photos, videos of products used in real settings or product ratings and reviews)

You could do worse than look at ASOS as a model that embeds these best-practices as part of a coherent approach in their site:

Screen shot – ASOS Home Page (accessed 3 June 2012)

Out of jail for their crimes against flashion?

I did flag that some of the sites I considered in Crimes Against Flashion had significantly changed their sites. In that post, I looked at the websites of Chanel, Balenciaga , Lanvin and John Galliano.

Since my last visit to their sites the following progress has been made:

1) Chanel: no change

2) Balenciaga: redesign

  • Removes useless splash screen
  • Foregrounds collections, accessories, history
  • Fast to load!
  • Presents products (clothing and accessories) as part of Collections and as unique items (Clothing):
    • facilitates different types of user navigation
    • Clothing structure and format lays the building blocks for the structure and content required to enable easy online shopping functionaity
  • Social links hidden behind “Follow us” footer

Screen shot: Balenciaga Home Page (accessed 3 June 2012)

3) Lanvin – minimal change:

  • There still is a loading screen
  • Lanvin’s site is a newspaper layout, so they can easily update the main content areas (news)
  • They have added a couple more social links to their footer – in addition to Facebook, there is now a Twitter and Youtube icon
  • Annoying newsletter sign up!

Screen shot: Lanvin Home Page (accessed 3 June 2012)

4) John Galliano: (partial) redesign

  • Foregrounds Galliano Online Store – left billboard (Helping  me buy things, gold star!)
  • No changing content (sad face, it’s nice to see new things, like we do on Lanvin even if we have to wait minutes for them)
  • Foregrounds John Galliano Website – centre billboard. WAIT – am I not already on the galliano website? Is there a rift in the time/space continuum?
  • Foregrounds the John Galliano Parfums

Screen shot: Galliano Home Page (accessed 3 June 2012)

But wait…where is are the collections?  One might argue Galliano’s absolute majesty with clothes are a major attractor to this brand, but the clothes have been sidelined. Not just sidelined, hidden behind the John Galliano Website billboard.

Interestingly, the website link takes us straight to the old bandwidth chewing video site.

So this is really a partial redesign, where the old site  has been relocated one level down, and a more functional splash screen has been inserted above it to direct traffic and faciliate visitors  finding the store and perfumes without having to wait 5 minutes for the side to load.

It is a good idea to not send people to bandwidth hogging content, but the centre billboard needs to be more indicative of what you are going to see when you click on it. Otherwise it is mystery meat (and redundant, since we are already on the Galliano Website).

A suggested amend would be: “Watch Fall 2012/2013 Show” as the title for the centre billboard (with an image specific to and reflective of that collection/show). Plus that would work as a gentle hint that you might have to wait for the video to load…

I would have liked to see a more complete redesign:

  • where the store functionality is incorporated into the display of the collections
  • an easy to navigate archive of the collections is available
  • alternatives to the video are available (photographs and indexes of collections) – consider Vogue’s coverage of the same show
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  1. […] of effective online/digital presences for luxury brands, something which has historically been poorly constructed and incredibly under-invested in and under-resourced: …whereas luxury goods groups have […]

  2. […] there are technical impediments preventing them from being capitalised on as a sales channel for most luxury […]



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