March 3, 2014, 12:00 PM

Come out and play and demonstrate how thoughtful visual design can translate into success.

Come Out and Play

The design styles of the two e-retailers profiled in this issue appeal to the child in all of us with their playful images. and show how thoughtful design can translate into fun online.

This critique was written by web site design firm MoreVisibility for Internet Retailer's 2014 Guide to E-commerce Site Design and Usability.

Home Page

Overall design: Design is clean, easy-to-navigate, well-balanced and product-rich without any clutter. The strategic use of color makes the featured and promoted products "pop." The home page is a true "hub" from which the user can find anything she needs.

Use of images: The images are fun, playful and entertaining. They spotlight the product features while staying on brand. Non-product imagery, like icons, is minimal and useful, helping to focus shoppers and drive action.

Use of text: The text is brief, creative and inspired. Everything is clearly, but still fancifully, labeled—adding to the charm of the page and featured products. Including prices helps drive users into the funnels.

Features and functions: The functional offerings are plentiful and useful. There's a strong balance between unique, such as a free video message with gifts, and standard tools such as the "My Bag" and store locator. Browsing options are robust.

What says is its design goal: infuses the web shopping experience with the storytelling of the Disney brand to create an immersive shopping experience, while still keeping it highly functional and efficient. We want a user-friendly e-commerce experience that resonates.

Product Page

Overall design: Product page is clean and full of information shoppers need to decide and buy and browse further. Highlights include a clear call to action, robust product details, "Add to Favorites," shipping information, easy sharing, reviews and related items.

Use of images: The expert use of color is focused on the product images, making the shopping experience clear and unencumbered. Product images are clear, with multiple views. Related products images are compelling.

Use of text: The details on this page are first rate. A perfect balance of text without being overwhelming. Valuable bonuses that anticipate users' needs are the "Bare Necessities" and "delivery" information.

Features and functions: This page could be a model for features all product pages need: reviews, lots of product detail, clear "Add to Bag," good related products, and easy browsing and sharing. Features and Functions receive a grade of A+.

Memorable branding

This critique was written by web site design firm Alexander Interactive for Internet Retailer's 2014 Guide to E-commerce Site Design and Usability.

Home Page

Overall design: Site is branded and memorable with global navigation that makes it approachable and engaging. The first thing a visitor's eye sees is the bear staring right at them. This element could have a bigger impact with refined navigational elements such as shopping cart and search bar.

Use of images: Effective use of imagery in the navigation and hero shot. The simple, siloed images of bears elsewhere keep the page clean and product focused, though subtle shadows would help white bears pop off the background.

Use of text: Messaging is playfully delivered in a brand-consistent manner, with a focus on occasions and holidays. The brand messaging capitalizes on that playfulness. It's refreshing to see a site with such personality.

Features and functions: Home page is no-frills with basic search and navigation and image-based promo blocks to round out the experience. But the sheer number of bear images makes the page feel overstuffed.

Site summary: The Vermont Teddy Bear site is friendly and approachable and captures the joy and nostalgia of teddy bears.

Product Page

Overall design: White space makes product shots the focal point, but the images' simplicity is disrupted by the amount of poorly-styled text to the right. Large offer callouts visually shout at the user and detract from the cuteness of the page.

Use of images: Quality imagery captures textures, details and the bears' softness, but imagery could be used to show product options like color and add some visual interest to the page.

Use of text: A more compelling story is needed. Description around the site's personalization options could be more robust and directive with regard to options, character limits and related features.

Features and functions: Better use of features could more effectively sell the product. Media including narratives and endorsements around people receiving this unique gift would go a long way toward a sale.

Site summary: Improving the typography and simplifying the layouts would maintain the cuteness of the site and help improve the overall visual impact and quality brand impression.

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