Shop Mentality

An odd title perhaps for a web design blog?  One thing that has been bothering me for a while about the countless websites I visit or asked to look at to help with marketing them – the sever lack of thought about what the viewer wants.

How many times have you gone to a website and been faced with a nice banner (or a really rubbish one for that matter) that has nothing to do with the subject you searched for in Google.  The website is little more than a list of text and one or two rubbish images?

OK, let me say sorry if that describes your site.  If it does, email me and I will design you a nice shiny new  website!

What is the problem with that site I described?  More often than not it is simply lack of thought when it comes to what the customer wants.

It is essential when designing a website or rearranging your current site (or at any other time!) that you put the viewer first.

So in terms of your viewer (read potential customer) what does shop mentality have to do with web design?  Have a look at your local high street and see how the shops market their business and products, lets face these guys have a lot of experience at marketing their business.  This is particularly true if the shop is long established.

What lessons can be learned from your local high street?  No matter what the product is, they all have some basic principals in common, these are specifically concerned with window dressing, but we will use them to help with dressing our website:

The three principals of window dressing are:

  1. To serve as an index to the class of goods kept in the store
  2. to attract attention of people to the store
  3. to show goods which will excite in the people the desire of possession

OK with these principals in mind, I will digress very slightly and consider “web site dressing”

The work space

To permit web dressing to advantage the window should be as large as possible.  Here I am not talking about optimum screen widths etc as these can be argued in another place and time, here I mean ensure that your website makes the best use of space and the product isn’t crowded out by banners or side bars.


This should be the first thing planned, it should be in keeping with the website.  The test of a good background is “does it bring out the products or services and show them in strong relief and harmonise with them in tone?”  A background may harmonise with a display either by blend or contrast, the former being the more pleasing however, the later is useful for drawing attention to a product.


Er, you can’t change the light a website!  However the principal here is to ensure that key products are highlighted and that colours compliment or contrast to produce the effect that the viewers eye is drawn to your key product.

This you can do with a website, ensure that your key product is easy to see.  Jakob Nielsen et al has carried out huge amounts of research about usability of websites, far be it from me to add to this work.  Drawing from Jakob Nielsen, we learn that the human eye naturally falls on the middle third of a computer screen, in other words – put your key products in this middle third and your users will find your products easier.

Colour Blending

Colour is the easiest way to attract your viewers eye to your key products, good colour effects are difficult to obtain where goods of a variety of colours are used, try to pick the products that you place on your home page to complement the design of the site, make sure that the colours draw the eye to the products not away from them.

Objects of Web Dressing

Remember the three principals from earlier:  Your website (homepage) should serve as an index to the class of goods kept by your business.  Second, your homepage should attract the attention of your users (in the real world a shop window display is used to attract customers away from the competition and to your shop) for a website, this means producing a website that is pleasing to the eye, uses clever design, whatever you want to do, but make sure that you attract people not put them off.  Third principal is to show good which will excite in the people the desire of possession.  Lets face it, this means getting a really nice photo of your product not some rubbishy photo you took on a mobile phone!  The old adage goes “a photo is worth a thousand words” make sure that those thousand words aren’t negative because your products photo is poor.

Special Features

You see these all the time on the high street, devices designed to catch the eye, moving displays interesting animals etc ****LISTEN CAREFULLY**** overuse of animation and moving items on your website will destroy all your hard work.

Please don’t make the mistake of going mad with moving displays!  Tastefully and tactfully done, a website can incorporate animation very effectively, but be really careful that you don’t draw the eye away from your products and to the animation.  it would be a shame that people remember the animation on your site and not your products.

Distinctive Displays

Keep your home page distinctive, don’t fall into the trap of following the crowd.

Under this section we also need to mention the effectiveness of changing your display regularly, this doesn’t mean that you need to redesign your website regularly.  I really cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your content fresh, rotate your products to give your viewer something new, and change your text regularly to prevent your site being boring.

I could rattle on for hours about how important it is that your shop window display is used at its optimum, we are all guilty (and I hold my hands up here) of overlooking this most important part of website ownership, time is usually the key here.  But it is important to remember that a website is nothing more than a shop front, use it exactly as if it were your shop window in the real world.