This is an open letter response to the blog post here (which wouldn’t allow comments). Though the author has gracefully agreed to post my reply on his follow up post soon.
Thanks for the letter, it not only contained some exceptionally valid points but it also kick-started a lot of chatter all over the web. The chatter, both supportive of your perspective and some anti, has been quite interesting to read as it has provided further (very useful) perspective.
I couldn’t agree more regarding the details that you note will make a huge difference, such as: Clear Iconography, Visual Hierarchy, Unified Link Styles, Blurry Images (at times) and Who, What Why. If we had no external factors involved in our work it would be quite simple to address. I contemplated simply replying to your note with a few comments I got from my incredible team. These comments included: “should we just tell him we know, and we’re working on it”, “I couldn’t agree more” and “wow, did he miss the boat on the design process.” I would like to spend the next couple of paragraphs discussing in a bit more detail each of the comments noted above.
“Should we just tell him we know, and we’re working on it?”
I think I said earlier, we are not even close to 100% pleased with the aesthetics of our site. We’ve had to very carefully figure out how to evolve (never redesign) our site experience. We’ve spent the better part of the year fixing a lot of under the hood pieces, building scalable processes and technology and are finally at a point where we will be dedicating more mindshare to aesthetics. You’d be happy to know, we hired Happy Cog to help us here (http://twitter.com/zeldman/statuses/3988360086).
“I couldn’t agree more.”
Well how could we agree more regarding your few key details section, you are 100% correct. I wish prior to writing your letter that you had some more facts regarding scale of our business, and current state of business to further validate this section and give all the folks talking about your post real information that lead to your proposed design solution.
“Wow, did he miss the boat on the design process.”
I feel it is important to discuss this a bit. We are pretty keen on viewing design as a verb, not a noun here. We never finish designs, we never “redesign”, we evolve. Business needs are always changing, economies change, customer needs change…hence how we tackle these issues need to evolve. What saddens me about the letter is not the critique nor your redesign (which was lovely by the way), rather it is the lack of mention around the most important pieces that need to be answered before entering into a design process. Who are we designing for? Is it paid traffic, organic? Is it for new customers? Existing customers? What percentage of folks search vs. browse? What are the top entrance pages? What is the impact of site speed/load time? I am barely scratching the surface on considerations that must be met before making design evolution decisions, there are many more but I am hoping you and your readers can get my point.
Really, I agree, our site plainly needs to evolve more than it has. It will, but evolution is a process. I am proud of the work my team has done in bringing the site from 1999-2003 as you described it and all within a year. You will soon see something closer to 2010 and eventually you will see an evolution that turns into a revolution. But it will take some more time and it certainly does not nor ever will include a “redesign.“
I appreciate your thoughts, your creativity and your care. I wish every critique I read (many per day) have a proposed solution with it like yours did. I just hope that as members of the design community we can do more acknowledging and addressing of all the difficulty that exists in business that affect the design process. If we can all rally around that concept and share ideas to solve those problems we all will be looking at prettier things more regularly, I guarantee it.
Thank you for posting this reply, looking forward to staying in touch!
Director of User Experience/Web Strategy, Zappos.com