It’s on hold and so am I. Plus bonus web design rant.

by Erin on May 27, 2006

bird print shirtdress
Yep, someone has this dress on hold at Aesthetically Vintage, and sadly, that someone is not me. (Maybe they have it on hold until they can get into a 24" waist!) But isn't it lovely? The print is birds, with nests and eggs. (This motif is everywhere now; I think I've seen it in the home decor sections of every major magazine over the past six to eight months.) I love the collar, too, and if you click on the image you can see the nicely pleated skirt. It's only $65! I wish whoever has it on hold would buy it already, and stop taunting me.

The rest of the site has some nice things, but [warning, rant ahead] there's a giant animated logo. Why do you need a giant animated logo? Or, for that matter, flash animation on your splash page, as there was on another vintage site I looked at yesterday? You do not need a splash page. A splash page on a website is basically a commercial for a place — a place your customer IS ALREADY VISITING. Give it up.

If you are going to run a vintage clothing website, you do not need flashy (or Flash-y) web design. Your needs are very simple. First, you need very clear, focused, well-lit pictures of the garment. Seriously, and with no excuses. Don't blame the camera, or warn that the colors are different — get the right picture. If you are not a good photographer, practice until you are, or get help.

You need good measurements of the garment. Don't just say "looks like a modern size 8," or (worse) "fits me and I wear an 8" because I guarantee you I could find a dozen women who all own a piece of clothing marked "8" and have none of them fit in your garment. Give measurements.

Also, if at all possible, show garments on a mannequin or dress form. Live models are fun, but the focus turns to the model and is often distracting. And if the model is bigger than the dress, the effect is awful — and I don't want to buy it, because I'm worried about strained seams. You can get a good, lightweight, adjustable dress form at fabric stores for less than $100, if you wait for the sales.

You need a good search & navigation, especially if you have more than a few items. Don't make users go back to the home page to switch categories (especially if there's no link to the home page on the item pages)! Also, don't make me click five times to see details about a dress. Put the measurements, basic condition, and price right next to the picture–after I know that, I'm more willing to click through for more pictures and information.

Be consistent in your measurements and descriptions, so that if someone is looking for B36, all the items say B36, not "36 Bust" or "bust measures 36 inches." Pick one variation of "1950s" "1950's" or "Fifties" and stick with it. Relatedly, learn to spell — I'm not asking you to be perfect, but if you want people to find you (especially on eBay or Froogle) and you say a dress has a "peplim", people looking for "peplums" will pass you right by. Your third-grade teacher was right — spelling counts. (Yesterday I saw a dress labeled "Marilyn Munroe". Who the heck was that? She had good taste in dresses, though.) If you absolutely cannot spell — find someone to help you. I could probably send eight copyeditors your way TODAY who would work for clothes.

Speaking of eBay, I know lots of folks have lovely retro images that brand their listings, but if your backdrop takes longer to load than the actual dress image, I may have already clicked off the page. Use one image, as a banner, not a backdrop, please. And for god's sake, don't have it rotate, flash, or dance the hornpipe. Why would you want to draw attention AWAY from what you're selling? Do not use rainbow text, fancy fonts, or all-caps. I don't care if it's easier to type; for large numbers of people silly formatting and all-caps writing still equals "crazy as hell", or possibly "I'm thirteen!". And if you say "if you are a bad bidder I will kill your dog" or similar over-the-top threats, I'm also going to pass you by. I know there are lots of bad bidders on eBay, and I've gotten burned myself, but don't start your listing with the assumption that everyone who chances across your auction is looking to scam you.

It's not that hard to build a vintage site or eBay store. Lots of people have done it. The trick is in saying "No." Every time you want to add a feature, or an image of something that's not for sale, or some gewgaw or trick, ask yourself "Will this sell a dress, or does it just look cool?" If the answer is "It just looks cool," say "No, thank you."

One last thing — if your site features NOISE OF ANY KIND–sound effects, songs, yodeling, whatever–I will never visit your site again, and I will purge your URL from my cache, so I won't even get back there by accident. It will be as if you never existed.

[I did warn you it was going to be a rant. Thank you for your kind attention.]

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