CR Blog

Bureau breaks rules for Whistles

Digital, Graphic Design

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 6 November 2009, 12:28    Permalink    Comments (12)

Bureau for Visual Affairs' new site for fashion retailer Whistles breaks a few rules but quadrupled takings on its first day

When there are so many assumptions about Best Practice on the web, it's nice to see a site that both challenges received wisdom and makes a success in doing it.

Most retailers deluge their online customers with product, Bureau's solution for Whistles asked a little more of users but seems to have worked as sales increased fourfold on its first day. The site uses an expansive homepage that includes video footage - customers have to move around the page to discover the latest styles but, once they've found something they like, it only takes two clicks to put it in the shoping basket.

“Ignoring so called 'Best Practice' gave us angles to explore, which enabled us to develop the site to a different goal — and allowed us to shorten the click depth of the buying process whilst connecting the aspirational and the transactional part of the website seamlessly," says Bureau's Simon Piehl. Whistles can create new homepage content on a weekly or even daily basis. There are plans to invite guest editors, from celebrities to designers, to curate one-off homepages in future.

Whistles' Jane Shepherdson said “We chose Bureau because they studied our brief, and came up with innovative solutions instead of telling us what we couldn’t do. They were excited by the prospect of throwing out the rule book, and have delivered something that represents our brand. It is both highly creative and commercially functional.”


Disclosure: Bureau for Visual Affairs also designed the CR site


I just went and clicked around the Whistles site and can say, as a practiced Web consumer (not to mention an avid purchaser of ladythings), that Bureau has done very well by its client. Compelling design, fun and easy to use, delicious to look at. Well done, all 'round.
Katy McDevitt
2009-11-06 13:30:46

Henry Moore Foundation and Phillips de Pury sites also very nice.
2009-11-06 14:05:42

The family that lays together, stays together
2009-11-06 14:21:08

Found it over complicated
rodney Price
2009-11-10 12:37:57

It's good to see a client who is willing to listen and put their faith in their designers. When it is so easy to go with the norm and a much bigger risk to go with a whole new rule book alltogether

Well done the client for seeing this as an opportunity to create brand equity and be able to stand out from the digital fashion crowd.

Oh and well done the Bureau for Visual Affairs for doing what all good designer should be doing. Challenging and questioning every brief put in front of them.
Julian Harriman-Dickinson
2009-11-10 14:15:28

It's very attractive, but is it that radical a departure from "best practice"? Panning an "oversized" screen might not be a convention for websites (with good reason, ultimately), but that doesn't mean it's a radical innovation either. Beyond that initial experience, it's all pretty conventionally bound up within normal navigation and content display.

The "shallower depth of click" is a nice soundbite, particularly as it pertains to a purchasing process. Plus, you can't argue with a four-fold increase in sales! (assuming it's perpetuated over the post-launch longer term) But aren't we perhaps getting a teensy-weensy bit more mileage out of this idea than it actually merits?
2009-11-10 14:59:41

quadrupled takings on its first day?

wonder if the carrot of free p&p and free gift in the first week of its relaunch also had something to do with that, but which this article omitted?
2009-11-10 15:04:42

might be missing a trick but i'm not singing from the rooftops.
2009-11-10 15:54:16

[Comment deleted by moderator - if you have a criticism to make, please make it and don't just hurl pointless abuse]
2009-11-13 12:30:00

There are some elements to the site that are an improvement - the collections page is a good example, but overall I think for an ecommerce site, it's a poor example. I would have thought adding the best creative elements to the old site (which was pretty good) would have been wiser. Creatively, it might be impressive but that should not get in the way of a clear user journey and an easy shopping experience. I think this comment is telling: 'customers have to move around the page to discover the latest styles but, once they've found something they like, it only takes two clicks to put it in the shoping basket'. Show me an ecommerce site that takes more than 2 clicks to put it in your basket after you've found something! I'm sure the old site took 2 clicks, but click depth alone is an irrelevant measurement. So really what they've achieved is to make it much harder to find something - the danger being that users will not spend the time trying to find it and never reach the basket. I'd be interested to see what happens to their conversion rate over the next few months because my guess is that it'll slump.
2009-11-17 13:52:46

I'd be interested to see what the ACTUAL conversion figures are.... 1 sale per month upto 4 sales per month isn't the most exicting of "fourfold" increases in conversion rates for example. I too would be very shocked to see those sort of figures maintained by a site that seems incredibly difficult to navigate - will shoppers eventually get bored of this UI or are they genuinely going to love playing with it over and over again?

Ecommerce design and best practice is there for two reasons... Experience and evolution - it's great to push boundaries and break the mould but deliberately slowing the browser-to-buyer process down surely isn't a good idea - and this is EXACTLY what they've done.

Let's see these articles actually contain some cold hard figures and a backup peice in 6 months time as this just looks like a PR piece to drum up some much needed traffic and/or sales to to me?
Jon H
2009-11-17 14:58:16

Just realised Patrick Burgoyne is the editor for CR ...and that Bureau designed CR's own website.

Talking of best practices Patrick... Have you ever tried to look at the CR website on a PC with the font-set you've used? I can only assume this was a clear evangelistic approach against us "daemon" professionals who abide by "best practice"? Especially with the following statement...

"When there are so many assumptions about Best Practice on the web, it's nice to see a site that both challenges received wisdom and makes a success in doing it."*

...And to think I used to expect the opinions of Creative Review?!?

*Shouldn't that be 'perceived' wisdom too or did you mean to adorn us "best practice" stick-in-the-muds with such compliments?
Jon H
2009-11-17 15:24:09

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