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The 1950s

In the late 1940s, the world was still recovering from the effects of a World War, so by the time the 50ís came around, all everyone wanted was stability and prosperity. Economic growth was seen in most western countries, and society became more consumer-driven, as opposed to the lean 30ís and 40ís.

Then came the commercials, which, for me, contain some of the defining images of that decade. That ultra-convincing smile, slightly condescending tone of voice and perfect 1950ís homes and families were somehow fantastic and awful at the same time. So from the decade that re-birthed consumerism, the Nifty Fifties, we take a look at e-commerce websites, and learn a few lessons about target audience along the way.

Shop Composition is like wow, crazy, and it has to be one of my all time favorite websites. This was the first e-commerce site I saw that was uncompromising on design. Most e-commerce sites give a little away in design to make more sales, but Shop Composition puts design first in every situation. From navigation to photography, the use of colour and shape, right through to the shopping cart and checkout feature, everything looks considered and looks at home in itís environment. The products in the range sit nicely amidst the lofty design philosophy of the site, and in some cases, they seem to demand it. This websiteís target market knows good design, and wants to be surrounded by it. Theyíre affluent, picky and they know what they like. Iím fairly confident when they arrive here, theyíre rarely disappointed.

Cicatriz have a slightly different approachÖ to just about everybody out there. I wanted to relate Cicatriz to the rebels of the 50ís, but that would be a disservice to the Beats [1] and to Cicatriz. There are no rebels anymore, just people that are better at doing things their own way. The Cicatriz website was developed by these people.

Rather than presenting you with a homepage that explains who they are, then leading you through their t-shirt range one by one, Cicatriz puts everything on show, right up front. The grid of videos not only displays the t-shirts in a relatively natural environment, but after watching the whole presentation through, you have a fairly good idea of the character of the company. This playful, catchy website is also really easy to use, with only a few clicks leading to a purchase. The best thing about this site is that the developers knew they could build something outside the box, because thatís where the target audience for this brand is generally looking for things. If you have trouble understanding whatís going on, or wish there was some more white-space, donít worry, you probably wouldnít like their clothes anyway.

The Kobalt shop represents that 50ís stability to me, as it follows more of a standard e-commerce interface than the two sites reviewed above, but does it with just that extra bit of something that makes it a nice place to be. Itís not trying too hard to be innovative, just to do what it does well. This site is proof that sometimes following all the rules in just the right way can win you just as many awards as the most extreme innovation.

However, the good design isnít the reason I included this website. Itís because I was a little disappointed by the image quality of the photos. The whole site was let down by a lack of clarity that is on display everywhere except in the element that is supposed to draw the most attention. The only reasoning I can think of behind the poor quality images is so the site loads faster. However, by the products themselves, Iím reminded that the target audience for this site is more than likely not going to be struggling for money, and are not afraid of shopping online, so are more than likely frequent users of the internet. Add these things together, along with the fact that South Korea (Kobalt is based in Seoul) has the highest number of broadband connections per capita in the world [2], and Iím not foreseeing too many dialup users. So weíll take this as an example of meeting your target market in almost every way.

Fred Perry made the list because of the slightly preppy style of the clothing, the classic design style and the navigation, which I found extremely useful. I could get where I wanted to go from a number of places around the site, I didnít feel like I was needlessly backtracking, and it was all done with style, without cluttering up the screen. The layout of these pages reminds me of a print catalogue, and thatís not something you see work well on the web very often. Thereís plenty of white-space, the site seems to be split by a fold that is consistent on most pages, and the typography is very considered, which all results in a relaxed, preppy-but-not-pretentious sort of feel. Look at the models, the clothes and the celebrities that align themselves with Fred Perry, and preppy-but-not-pretentious seems to be right where the audience is at.


All of these websites succeed because of their attention to detail, their knowledge of their audiences, and in the case of Shop Composition and Cicatriz, because somebody chose to approach the idea of an e-commerce website with a clean sheet. They are proof that sometimes knowing your audience means that you know what theyíll like even before they do.

Jason Harper


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Jason Harper

Jason Harper

Run Web Design is a Geelong based company committed to providing businesses with a complete, professional web site development service.

With services covering all aspects of web site development, including website design and construction, search engine optimisation, domain registration and web hosting, and online advertising advice, Run Web Design is able to provide clients with a web site that works for their business.

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Marathon is Run Web Design's webzine containing information and articles on Website, Internet and Business related topics. Also included are some websites from around the world that are making some noise.

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