10 July 2006

Web Design: E-Commerce

Web Design: E-Commerce - Click for details and orders at Amazon.co.ukThis is one of the latest titles in Taschen's ultra-cheap but glamorous series of design guides. They're not books of instruction, so much as portfolios of inspirational works. The editor Julius Wiedemann has chosen a selection of commercial web sites - from small retailers to online superstores, bringing together the most cutting edge e-commerce sites on the web today. The book starts off with a number of detailed case studies showing innovations in e-commerce. The examples include surfwear, computers, IKEA, fashionwear, bicycles, and ladies' underwear. The good part about these is that not only are the design brief and the commercial portfolio spelled out, but details of the original design studios are added, along with any awards they might have won. You get a close feeling for the demands made of the designers. Curiously enough, URLs for the sites are not given, but you can usually work them out.

The remainder of the book is a collection of double-page spreads showing the home pages and screenshots from each site. Examples range from photography, office chairs, jewellery, fleet management, and paintings, and they come from all over the world - UK, France, Brazil, USA, Germany, and Japan. The editors have decided not to show major e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com or Dell.com, but instead to present work which might not be so well known, but which nevertheless makes interesting use of e-commerce principles.

I checked most of the sites on display, and the majority of them are visually sharp, smack up to date, and work in usability terms. Just one or two heavily Flash-based examples put more emphasis on showing off the designer's skills than making a purchase easy. In the case of the examples shown, other useful details are given: the design team, the tools they have used, and the cost in hours for developing the site, plus any awards they might have won.

You might not agree that all of them are examples of good customer usability. For instance I checked a lingerie site (purely for research purposes of course) and even with my enthusiasm to see the goods in close-up, it wasn't easy finding the right buttons to push. (Story of my Life?) But a wonderful jewellery site at Antonio Bernado delivers a stylish and well-nigh seamless user-experience.

These books are smart, and well-printed on good quality paper. The text is printed in English, German, and French, in a rather small and condensed font - but at this price you can't possibly grumble.

Julius Wiedemann, Web Design: E-Commerce, London: Taschen, 2006, pp.190, ISBN 3822840556

Click for details and orders at Amazon.comClick for details and orders at Amazon.co.uk



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