February 3, 2014, 11:50 AM

Editor's Letter: Modern design

Whenever somebody does something new and different, there are bound to be critics.

Allison Enright

Editor

Whenever somebody does something new and different, there are bound to be critics. That was true for architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the middle of the 20th century as he created modern buildings in styles no one had considered before. Three of his buildings—the Johnson Wax Administration Building, the Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater—are on this issue's cover. These distinctive buildings serve different purposes—work, culture and home—but sprang from the same source.

That idea—serving different needs from the same source—is the same one e-retailers in the responsive design vanguard are trying to move forward as they attempt to deliver sites that work across the multitude of devices consumers use to shop the web. Like Wright's building designs, responsive design is new and faces criticism, and some of that criticism is deserved.

Responsive design isn't perfect, and it may not be the solution for your e-commerce business. But the approach is evolving to address key problems, like slowly loading pages and overly boxy layouts, and the responsive sites we'll be shopping a year from now will operate and look better than the sites we see today. It's important to keep some perspective. Even Wright's residential masterpiece, Fallingwater, leaked.

The bigger picture with responsive design is that it is one solution that addresses the bigger change of consumers incorporating more devices into their online shopping trips. Shoppers want—expect—e-retailers to have sites that work well. Satisfying that expectation is the bigger goal.

Turn to page 12 to read managing editor of mobile commerce Bill Siwicki's detailed story about how e-retailers are adapting responsive design. To take a deeper look at responsive design and additional web design styles, I encourage you to check out Internet Retailer's newly released 2014 Guide to E-Commerce Web Design and Usability, which includes reviews of more than 100 desktop and mobile sites of North America's top e-retailers.

We asked six prominent web design firms to critique these e-retailers' home and product pages for their use of images, features and functions, and to deliver their opinions on the overall design. As you think about the future of your web site and how it will look and work across devices, it will be well worth your time to consider how your competitors are addressing this tough problem.

Allison Enright, Editor

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