Herman Miller Inc., a manufacturer of furniture for home and office, has long focused on the design of its products. And in 2010, when it relaunched its e-commerce site—nearly a decade after it had abandoned its first one—it wanted that focus to carry over to the new site.
The insistence on good design came through in the site’s configuration tool that enables consumers to build chairs to meet their specific needs, such as for strong back support or a tilt adjuster. Because the retailer builds its chairs to order, giving consumers a way to create the exact chair they need made sense, says Michael Blum, Herman Miller’s e-commerce channel manager. He will discuss what it took to create the tool, and talk about design choices for the rest of the site, at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2012 in Orlando, FL, in February. He will speak in a session entitled "Creating Interactivity: How interactive product content creates sales."
Developing the configuration tool presented significant challenges. “There are nearly 1 million ways to build one of our Aeron chairs,” he says. “But if you say to shoppers there are 1 million choices to make, that’s overwhelming.”
The project took nearly a year from concept to launch, but that time was worth the effort, he says. “Good design dictates that something can’t just look good. It has to function well and solve a problem.”
Internet Retailer’s editors asked Blum to speak because of his experience leading Herman Miller's consumer e-commerce business. Before joining Herman Miller, Blum worked in e-commerce and digital marketing roles for brands such as AAA and Kellogg’s.