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.]

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

bani May 27, 2006 at 8:00 am

Absolutely ROFL – too true! For any site, not just vintage clothing.

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Stephanie May 27, 2006 at 9:10 am

Add me to the list of copy editors who will work for clothes!

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Anonymous May 27, 2006 at 9:37 am

I build web sites and I agree with you 100%. I don’t do animated logos, I despise Flash, and any site with sound effects will also chase me forever away. I won’t do any of these things you hate for a client, even at my hourly rate. Loved the rant. Love your blog too. I never wear dresses, but you make me think I should.

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Donna May 27, 2006 at 10:13 am

Erin, do you have any advice for those of us who want to start a collection of dresses? What to begin with? It’s a litle scary jumping out of the jeans-and-tee safety zone but I’m ready!

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Carol May 27, 2006 at 10:15 am

Boy, do I agree with the rant! Especially sounds. Some of my best, guilt-free, surfing is done at 2 am (what else could I do, vacuum?). A sound blaring out of my speakers, waking my husband in our bedroom next door, really gives me the redass.

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valentina May 27, 2006 at 10:23 am

But are you just ranting here, or do you email this to the offenders? Sound is the worst!

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bani May 27, 2006 at 10:32 am

I have an unrelated question now: is this dress a Duro-esque dress? It’s a Swedish pattern designer who makes her own patterns, “adapted to the Scandinavian taste”. If you want the text translated, let me know…

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Gigi May 27, 2006 at 10:53 am

Amen. And, I don’t know about you, but, I check new auctions daily and won’t even bother to look if there is no gallery picture. Is it really worth the $.25 savings?

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Gidget Bananas May 27, 2006 at 11:03 am

“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.”Yes, yes, a thousand times YES! And another yes to gigi; I don’t look if there’s no gallery picture, and so I don’t sell without one, either, even if I’m trying to move some $1.99 costume jewelry. Life’s too short to open up every. damn. listing.

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Gidget Bananas May 27, 2006 at 11:05 am

– Although I have to say that I never appreciated commercial photographers until I started taking pictures for auction. DAMN it’s hard to get a good picture.

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Floridaprincess May 27, 2006 at 12:06 pm

All right, I need that list of copy editors!! Another great post today as I need all the help I can get. I’am trying to start my own vintage clothing bussiness started , this will be on the internet. I have not done the website yet, this has been one of my biggest problems. Fabric has been my 2nd huge problem. I have finaly got some good conections and loads of information on fabric, so Iam doing much better now in the fabric department.

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Floridaprincess May 27, 2006 at 12:07 pm

Oops, started is not supposed to be in there twice.

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Jilli May 27, 2006 at 1:04 pm

Add me to the list of Will Work for Dresses editors.Your rant is spot-on, especially about the sound effects. In fact, I have gone so far as to send polite messages to sellers who have sound on their listings.

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enc May 27, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Animated logos make my head spin. I was whining about just such to my friend Jeremy, an I.T. expert, and he said that sometimes you can disable them by pressing the ESC key. Yay! Sometimes it won’t work, but I was surprised by how many flashing atrocities were stopped dead with this little trick.

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Zoltar Panaflex May 27, 2006 at 3:29 pm

You’re right, it was a rant – but a very accurate well-written rant indeed!Good rant!

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Raven May 27, 2006 at 4:43 pm

One more pet peeve…stupid things that follow your mouse cursor. Be they butterflies or hearts or words. They annoy me. Otherwise I agree with all you said. I don’t mind a flash intro, sometimes they are pretty, but give me the option to skip it. If I can’t skip it, I just shut the window. Also, among the comments about bad pictures I despise, “this picture just doesn’t do [insert item here] justice. Must see to believe.” Ummm…no, I just need to see the picture. I really don’t want to chance that it looks that crappy in person, or that the blue isn’t right, or whatever.Thanks for your rant!!!

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Raven May 27, 2006 at 4:45 pm

Oh, and I just clicked to look at those pictures. Good lord, what were they thinking. Could she just not stand there facing forward, facing back, end of story??? I can’t tell if the dress is attractive or not!

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Summerset May 27, 2006 at 5:27 pm

Spot on, Erin! I have had some of the same thoughts myself about websites/auction items.

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Marty May 28, 2006 at 6:02 am

The most successful and popular web site on the Internet is also the simplest. Google has a plain white background, no drop down menus, not much of anything on its home page and is powerfully effective in search and advertising! Simplicity can work!

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Julie The Vintage Goddess May 28, 2006 at 10:43 pm

NOISE OF ANY KINDErin, sometimes you just have to be blunt, thanks for the rant, hopefully more sellers will pay attention.

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gaile May 30, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Rock on. You said it all, and i was so waiting for the end, hoping for the bit about the sound. god how i hate midi sounds on a website. shudder.

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Anonymous June 12, 2006 at 9:02 am

How about the fushia/white/lime (any bright color) copy on dark backgrounds? Triggers a migraine if I try to read it, not to mention I see a ghost image for too long afterwards.

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