Designing for luxury brandsPosted September 13th, 2010 by David Hamill
In this post I’m going to discuss luxury brands. I’ll mention some mistakes that luxury brands often make and then go on to compare two similar web pages from different luxury brands.
Fine wine and screw-top bottles
Picture this. You’re having friends for dinner and want to make it a little special. You want to push the boat out and create a sense of occasion. The wine you’re going to serve is available as a screw-top bottle as well as a traditional corked one. Which bottle do you buy?
The screw-top bottle is easier to open, but sometimes the quickest and easiest option is not always the best option for the occasion. The corked bottle will provide a better experience in this context. It adds to the luxury of the experience. This idea of luxury is often wrongly implemented on the websites of luxury brands.
The website is rarely the product
Your website is part of the brand experience. But it is not the bottle of fine wine. Instead it’s more like the conversation you had with the guy in the wine store when you were choosing it.
You want that guy to be knowledgeable, informative and helpful in answering your questions. Just like a website.
Luxury brands often misunderstand the type of experience we’re looking for when using their websites. If you’re spending £2,000 on a handbag, it doesn’t mean you wanted to be treated to a 30-second intro to the Gucci website before you can look at products. You still want to get to the handbag section of the site without fuss.
The luxury brand experience should be just as efficient as any other online experience. However some luxury brands believe that we are more ‘bought in’ to their brand and want the website to provide us with more than just a list of bags. To an extent this is true, we do expect a little more but that doesn’t mean we want the website to waste our time.
Anything extra that the website provides should be consistent with our goals and not be wasteful rubbish that is of no use to us.
Some years ago this issue was more evident on the web with the number of elaborate Flash-based sites that existed. They each had their own unique navigation concept that took ages to work out. Such sites tended to deliver very little in the way of content so tried to make up for it with smoke and mirrors. I’m sure there are plenty still out there today. Why not post your favourite examples in the comments section of this page?
Many luxury brands think we’ll be content with reading fluff about their products. By fluff I mean the text that uses lots of big emotive words without actually telling us anything about the product.
The most vomit-inducing example I’ve found recently comes from the Cameron House Hotel. In general the page the text comes from is well designed as I’ll discuss later. This however is their opening description of a Classic Room:
After a blissful night’s sleep you dive under the monsoon shower, while your favourite song plays out from the iPod docking station. You feel it’s a cue to sing in the shower, but resist for fear of waking the stag or the grouse in the neighbouring glen. You call concierge for a newspaper and sink back on top of the bed. That’s enough hard work for today you muse, gazing across the mirror like Great Loch before lazily napping beneath a broadsheet duvet.
Thankfully for the hotel, most people won’t get as far as reading the cringe-worthy bit about waking the stag in the neighbouring glen. They’ll skip past the text after just a few words.
This is the funniest example I could find but but not the worst. You see it’s not just marketing fluff. It’s trying to provide us with substantiated facts about the rooms. Unfortunately we’re all so used to reading fluff that we’re quick to dismiss it as such.
AGA uses this copy to explain to you why you’re spending so much on a cooker:
Your brand new AGA is made in the same way today as it has always been: by pouring molten iron into moulds. It gives the castings their characteristic surface (every one is unique) and helps AGA rise above the usual mass-produced uniformity.
While most manufacturers spray paint a cooker in seconds, it still takes us three days to apply the multiple protective coats of gleaming vitreous enamel that help ensure the working life of an AGA is measured in decades, not years.
Of course, the modern AGA contains state-of-the-art technology and is subject to rigorous quality and the latest environmental standards.
Every AGA component is individually inspected and colour checked before engineers carry out the final build-up in the customer’s kitchen, ensuring installation is as quick and hassle-free as possible.
It is hardly surprising then, that while previous generations have fallen in love with Dr Gustaf Dalén’s AGA concept, it has never been more popular than it is now.
It’s a little bit long but I didn’t gag at any point when reading it. It’s telling us that the AGA is a quality piece of kit by going into detail about the manufacturing and installation procedure. It doesn’t need to create poetry to do this, it just tells us the facts.
The need for detail
If anything, we need more detail when we’re buying a luxury brand. We want to know why we’re parting with so much cash for it. It would be a bit unfair of me to criticise the page from the Cameron House Hotel site without explaining that it’s actually one of the best examples of a hotel room page that I’ve seen.
If I’m thinking about a romantic weekend at the hotel I know I can only afford a standard room. But I want to be sure I’m still getting a luxury experience. So I want to know what’s in the room and get an idea of how big and nice it is. As you can see below, this page tells me.
A large photo of the room shows me it’s easily big enough and the bed looks big and comfy. The cheesy opening description is then followed up by a list of features that come with the room. So despite skipping past the over-indulgent text, I’m still going to find the detail. I’m pretty convinced that I’d be happy with this room.
The Gleneagles Hotel
The nearest competition to the Cameron House Hotel would probably be the Gleneagles Hotel. So let’s look at the page that discusses their classic rooms. I know that the Gleneagles Hotel is very lush, but this page doesn’t convince me of it.
There’s no attempt at poetry which is nice, but the text starts of almost apologetically “Smaller, inner-facing rooms”. This is a very negative opening. I’m sure the rooms are probably bigger than any I have stayed in, but this description doesn’t convince me of this fact. I’m beginning to feel a little like I’ll be treated as economy class already.
The text that says “the finest comforts and ultimate in relaxation” tells us nothing. I’ve got a pretty good imagination, so I can promise you that my idea of the ultimate in relaxation hasn’t come with a hotel room since Roman times. These are empty words and I want detail.
The photograph shows me the rooms are nice but I can’t see the bed or get an idea of scale. Sure I can get a panoramic image of a room if I install Quicktime Player. But I can’t be bothered. I’ve seen The Cameron House Hotel page and am favouring them already. So why should I install some software just so that I can see a picture of a room?
It’s pretty obvious that this page was originally designed to have the main photograph and the short text description only. Later they realised that people might actually want to see the room and even book it. They should have redesigned the page to do this, but instead they just slapped in some links.
Join the discussion and leave a comment about this article. Here are some ideas:
- Show us examples of sites for luxury brands, good or bad
- If you were to make 2 improvements to this page. What would they be?
- Make a comment about designing for luxury brands