In the land of website design, we spend a lot of time trying to make websites reflect the aesthetics and attitude of each of our clients. We wondered how unified a message some of the big retailers here in New York had between their websites and storefronts, so we sent an eagle-eyed intern out to investigate.
We captured the soul of 53 brick-and-mortar storefronts as a basis for our comparison. Then we took screenshots each of those companies' website homepages. Finally, we placed them side-by-side in this virtual coliseum to find out which companies make their stores work hand-in-hand with their websites, and which companies have apparently never seen a modem before.
On the storefront side, "gray" or "drab" comes to mind, but we'll go with "muted." It's not Adidas' fault, however, that gray is "in," this winter. The lone bright and happy spot is the signage behind the ubiquitous SALE bait. It seems to suggest that Adidas is a candy store where the candy has been replaced by shoes.
On the other hand, we have the website, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the storefront. Its cheerful shotgunning of Skittles-hued apparel and athletic people is visually exciting, if confusing and labyrinthine. Again, we have the candy store feeling, but rather than selling shoes, this sports website design is hawking the Adidas brand.
2. Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy's hoping that "less is more" in this storefront. We've got our requisite gray with a couple of nice fashion ideas to whet your shopping hunger.
Web-side, Tommy's fashion website design is hoping that "even less" is "lots." Here's your sale, here's where you buy. Interesting that the majority of the websites use loads of color, while most storefronts are decidedly gray. Thinking caps... on!
And now lululemon sinks my entire color hypothesis with a beautiful, bright, cheerful storefront swimming in fun shades that beg to take you by the hand and pull you into spring with fashionable athletic gear to get you in shape for summer. It's an eye-catching display.
The website's utilitarian layout and style seems less about selling the clothes than selling you on seeing yourself wearing those clothes. I don't see myself practicing yoga on ice, however.
4. Victoria's Secret
Pink and lingerie, together like peanut butter and jelly or shell-shocked tourists and Times Square. If it works, go with it. The level of synergy between the store and the site is unparalleled, down to the lettering in the Sale bait sharing the same font as its web sister.
The ecommerce website design provides easy access to Victoria's Secret's treasure trove of lingerie. Color scheme, sale bait, and easy functionality make for a painless, happy web experience.
5. Miu Miu
This high concept, high fashion retailer takes a minimalist theory and hugs it tight. The storefront applies the near-monochromatic scheme of its website in a unique and visually interesting way.
The website loves white space. It's uncluttered, pretty, and relaxing. You have easy access to its upcoming fashion catalogs, store links, and a nice picture of a pretty lady. It does little to sell Miu Miu products directly, but it does well in selling the idea of their products.
6. Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole wants you to know there's a sale. The merchandise takes a back seat to the promise of savings in this storefront, a perfect example of how businesses are dealing with the economy.
They do a wonderful job of linking elements of the web to the store, especially in the sale signage.
This irreverent storefront reflects the company's youthful brand with a mixture of fun and cool.
Meanwhile, the website is matching pace with mixed martial arts and professional wrestling websites both in content and style.
8. Adriano Goldschmied
The storefront and the website for Adriano are there to sell you clothes. In the brick and mortar store, the products take center stage with the promise of a sale whispering sweetly nearby, while the website slaps the sale up in 42-point caps lock.
9. Guess by Marciano
Guess by Marciano uses whites and soft hues in conjunction with large form screen printing to emphasize their brand's extravagance. The website uses the same color palette, typeface, and other design elements to remind its customers of the brand.
Sex definitely sells on the internet.
11. 7 For All Mankind
The many windows of the storefront and the angle of the fire escape call to mind the compartmentalization of the website and the rakish angle of the woman's leg, respectively.
Ok, so that's a stretch. Both want to sell you stylish, classy wear-gear, and both look good doing it.
12. White House Black Market
Color scheme, typeface, simple approach: all matching. The black/white of the woman's threads match nicely with the website's design. Again, the theme is classy. Womens' boutiques (not ladies' or young womens' or whathaveyou) are all about black, white, classy, simple. Done.
13. Via Spiga
The storefront's busy and chic, while ViaSpiga.com takes the award for Ultimate Minimalist Home Page.
14. UGG Australia
The storefront looks a bit like a Victorian study from the outside, like you might walk in and find two professors smoking pipes, discussing the relevance of Samuel Butler on contemporary literature.
The website, however, is bright & airy. Aimed at women. Interesting.
This British institution grabs your attention with a flashy display of the Union Jack. Perhaps they're trying to ride that "British = Classy" wave that we're all hesitant to admit but deep down inside know that's how we feel. Oh, did we mention Topshop is British?
Mmm. I like. Taschen's storefront tastes like a painting hanging in some Chelsea gallery. Love the warm colors and the slightly off-center, Golden Means-y glass door.
The website doesn't have much of a unifying theme. Colors, fonts, pictures up and about without much direction. Fairly easy to navigate!
Although I couldn’t see a sign for the storefront in the picture we have — which’d be a confident (bewildering?) statement for a sales outlet to proclaim — I’m assured there is a faint Prada logo spanning the two right-most windows.
That being said, I know of a business successfully using this ploy. There’s a wonderful Sushi place in Portland, Oregon that relies completely on word of mouth to drive business – no leaflets, no direct mail, no sales, not even a sign to let you know where the place is. Yet, come dinner time, the place had a line out the door even in the ubiquitous Oregon rain. It gives customers a sense of being in an exclusive club (albeit one with a line out the door.) Great business model if you can make it work.
Lovely website. It’s always nice to see a concept executed digitally that rests easy on the eye but also works as a brand-builder AND an information outlet. Neat. The storefront is much simpler, yet still gray and effective.
The storefront appears to be stuffed with images, logos, and products.
The website offers a few unique ideas towards online sales while keeping the design mostly simple and pretty.
19. Michael Kors
Michael Kors really has their act together: Notice how they feature the exact same purse in the window and online? The website reflects the storefront and vice-versa. Clean, creamy, distinguished place for leather bags and the likes.
Madewell’s smallish storefront pushes the product to the forefront with a hint of color perhaps suggesting an eventual return to spring to its customers. The website also brings its products up front, sans color. The cream that so many of these websites use as backgrounds always reminds me of my breakfast cereal.
Longchamp’s website features something called Militaire-chic, a throwback to WWII era pinup gals and navy uniforms. The storefront has none of those affectations, going instead for a warm brown feeling mottled by just a hint of gray. I can’t think of what to say. The two don’t appear to match much.
22. Kate Spade
Color! Blessed, merciful color! It’s like stumbling onto a can of Yoohoo after walking through a chocolate desert. The storefront appears to be toned down compared to the inside, and may as well be a Hugo Boss ad compared to the website. It’s refreshing.
23. J Lindberg
Finally, a men’s clothing store. The major difference seems to be rather than gray, we have dark gray. Same staid, simple storefront and website. Like most of its women’s counterparts, the website uses white and grays with pictures of beautiful waifish models sporting the company threads.
24. J Crew Men
It’s raining men. Books and music records round out this storefront’s display. Is it just a nice visual complement? Suggesting J Crew’s adherents are 21st century renaissance men? While we’ve the gray, the display hints at much, much more within. The website falls back on thumbnails of men doing men things – walking, touching each other, tying shoes. Men things! The gray is back with a vengeance, while the fights for center stage with the thumbnail montage.
25. G-Star Raw
From looking at these two pictures, I’ve no idea what G-Star does. It looks like there’s some apparel in the windows of the store, but I’m maybe seeing workout equipment in the far right window? The “SALE!” sign looks like a baseball pennant. The website tosses all my guesses in the back of the fridge to be forgotten until spring cleaning. The website skips any pretenses of “G-Star” and goes straight to the “Raw” jugular. There’s barely any mention of sales, but plenty of image.
26. Free People
The website’s proto-hippie mien is reinforced by the Free Love models in front of a Yellow Submarine-esque floating color landscape background. The storefront’s noticeably throttled-down, gray-ified by the horrifying thought of a colorful nee Bohemian boutique in downtown Manhattan.
Diesel has chutzpah. The website’s hawking “stupid,” which appears to be a brand-strengthening attempt at viral/web 2.0 customer interaction. No clothes, no discounts. There’s an online store link, sure, but 90% of the site’s dominated by a call for video submissions. Smart & irreverent is carried over to the storefront. Though there’re actually clothes on sale in the storefront, they’re obscured by the balls in the windows.
28. Dolce & Gabbana
Transparency! Not only is it a theme for a president, but also an entire storefront. Look at all the wonderful toys. Elsewhere, the website’s impressive (overwhelming!) catalogue of models & styles appear on virtual conveyor belts which elicit both awe at their history (is that an ad from ’68?) and a factory-like consternation (when will it stop?).
29. Crate & Barrel
Our second company in a row sporting an ampersand hints at the fun you can have with colors. Take a few moments to consider, it seems to say, how much more fun your kitchen/bedroom/toilet would be with some “Dew Blue” or “Fire Engine Red” in it! I agree, Crate & Barrel! Your storefront seems to be brimming over with ideas to make my home – and therefore, my life! – more colorful. Your website is muted, which either suggests cleanliness or a blank slate on which to fill in with “Turtle Green.”
30. Club Monaco
Mmm. Smart design gives me goosebumps. Look at that website with its black and white, squat typeface, and pinkish-purple eye-catching text dead center. Traipse, eye-ward, to the right, where the black and white reappear with those eye-catching accessories with their bursts of color. (shiver)
31. Christian Audigier
Lots happening in the world of Christian A’s storefront. We’ve got mannequins, sale signage, and all kinds of cool detritus like guitars and accessories. The website is going for a… something. Like, an old-fashioned picture box? A marquee? Pictures at an exhibition? It’s different, whatever it is.
Camper wins the “eerily similar” award. Wow.
Burton appears to be borrowing a bit from Apple’s iPod advertising for their storefront displays. They do well in showing the myriad ways you can wear or use Burton, and they do well in making it sexy. So does the website, which (what with it being 30 or so outside) looks geared up for winter sports. Like many of its competitors (and non-competitors), Burton looks to be primarily slinging its image rather than selling products.
We’re back to creams and grays, sexy models, simple storefront displays and image-centric home webpages. In other words, we’re back to ladies’ boutiques.
35. Hugo Boss
Love the way the website takes over the page. No ugly UI to distract from the image. Image marketing, sexy and plain. The storefront fits in with its upper-end male clothing boutique brethren. Blacks, grays, whites, leather. Cheers.
The storefront’s classy and slightly aloof, the website’s personable and warm. Will the twain meet inside the building? Two disparate sides of the same personality, the masculine & the feminine? Will Edward Said use Bloomindale’s in an upcoming essay? Time will tell.
37. Ben Sherman
Ben Sherman’s looking young and hip. This particular side of the storefront looks young, hip, male-centric, while the website seems to be running an ambiguous line between the two sexes. It feels as though it’s Halloween on bensherman.com.
38. Barney’s Co-op
The store is aimed at women. The website follows suit. The website sells both sexes, but caters to one on its homepage. Equality doesn’t sell handbags.
Apple’s usually known for simple, elegant design and execution. The storefront is a perfect example. Giant glass cube with a suspended logo. Yahtzee! The homepage is a smorgasbord of products, tag lines, images, and UI. It’s a little surprising.
40. Anya Hindmarch
Dark, mysterious, curvy – what’s going on in Anya Hindarch? I don’t know, but I want to. I think it’s something sexy. Just look at that image. Has she been caught doing something naughty? Again, I don’t know, but I sure want to find out.
Note to Anthropologie’s models: don’t look at the camera, look at the ground and pretend an extraordinarily cute puppy is sitting next to you. The bright colors and whimsical typefaces make an optimistic homepage for Anthropologie visitors. The storefront appears to offer a decent mixture of colors and the season’s fashion disease: gray. Happiness is a raspberry sherbert dress.
Shoes, on sale. Red, white, and leather. You want shoes, you want a decent price, you want lots of selection, here’s Aldo. Nearly all of Aldo’s copy is about sales, clearance, deals, and free shipping. Pushing sales. Get down to business, Aldo.
43. American Apparel
Is this American Apparel storefront using the same models the website's featuring on their homepage? Is this level of synergy possible? Am I - right now - losing my very mind?!?
44. Banana Republic Men
Stop me if this sounds familiar. Conservative men's clothing company employs creams and grays in both storefront and website for a safe and probably fairly effective (if a bit milquetoast) shopping experience for its customers.
Esprit's odd, dot-matrix-y typeface is spreading like a pox, infecting its brethren text-based images with its dotty flu. It's oddly compelling when combined with the red, cutting through the pleasantly-spaced whiteness of the website.
Then there's the Shoji Screen-like blockade going on in the storefront's window, like the product is getting undressed behind there and we simply have to enter the store to find out how nice it all looks. Oh, simple eye-catcher who makes me dream of shopping, what other secrets do you hold?
Gap goes with white. The windows offer no real view into the store's soul; instead, we're left with a couple of outfits with some tame pictures of trees and swingsets. Let your imagination do the work, it says. The website, meanwhile, says men and women are welcome here! We can work together to rock similar clothing styles. Thanks, Gap!
47. H & M
H&M's ginger models look like psychedelic bees with amazing, long legs. The layout looks more like a spotlighted wardrobe with the faded pink light b/g-ing our lovely pink-black-purple-black bees. There isn't much synergy, bees or otherwise, between the website and the storefront, however.
48. J Crew
Not sure what's going on with the numbers in the window of J Crew's storefront, there. But I do know I see a pastel-looking sky blue shared by the real world & web world versions of J Crew! The website reminds me either of Easter eggs or the gentle colors of the booties hospitals put on newborns. Either way, I get "birth" out of that website, so I'll stretch a little and say there's a subliminal prompt asking you to remake yourself with a new J Crew outfit.
Cool slate & black. Stylish, verging on borrowing from Nike. Especially the website. Sick and slick; confident the product is sexy enough to sell without a muscle-bound model (or coolness-lending alternative sports spokesperson, for that matter).
50. Paul Smith
Men's store with precious little happening in either website or storefront other than the promise of a sale and the whiff of a large selection.
51. United Colors of Benetton
The "colors" are "united" in their storefront & website. Ah, I crack myself up.
Perfect match between website and storefront, though if I'd somehow stumbled across the homepage whilst on my interweb travails, I'd probably have no idea where I was or what I was doing there. Other than there's a sale, of course.
Matters not! The low likelihood of confusing a stumbled-upon potential customer outweighs the shock its regular users would register upon seeing in such bold font the monumental sale happening before their very fingers.
53. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters manipulates the typeface to remind visitors of its edgy and fun brand. We've got our white unifier, and our fashion model's hitting UO's cool factor by sporting a look like he, too, is a bit embarrassed to be modeling but it's ok because Urban Outfitters is cool enough to be seen modeling for.
Photos by Donna Ko
Screenshots & Editing by Ryan Matzner
Concept by Alhan Keser