Design Case Study: www.ungaro.com

Let’s look at the website of fashion label Emanuel Ungaro, but you might want to take some dramamine first.

When I land on the page, I’m presented with a loading indicator that reminds me forcibly of old Flash intros to websites. It doesn’t last very long, at least on my computer, perhaps 2-5 hundred milliseconds. But it’s long enough for me to begin wondering what fancy, annoying thing they are loading instead of just showing me some content.

The front page is a black background with white text. The colors don’t look toned at all. It looks like pure black and pure white—at least to the naked eye. The headline font has serifs. The body text does not. The featured content on this page is an arrangement of photos—a model, presumably wearing clothes from this label.

The photos move slightly relative to the background when you scroll this page. If you aren’t really paying attention, you might miss that detail except for an overall feeling of sea-sickness. It’s not at all pleasant or welcome. As we scroll further down the page, there are more photos, and all of them do this. The movement is subtle, but it’s definitely happening. Perhaps the designer was trying to create a parallax effect. If so, it’s not working. This does not feel in any way 3-dimensional. It feels like a flat web page where the pictures move slightly for no reason.

The buttons do something slightly interested. They are customized simple transparent buttons. On a black background, the button has white text and a white border. When you mouse over it, the button transitions to a white background and the text color changes to black.

Aside from these minor stylistic variations, nothing else about the page is noteworthy. Like just every other website I see, the layout is a large column composed of full-width panels. The panels alternate between white-on-black and black-on-white. It is cohesive. I’ll give it that.

Apart from the sickening movement of the images, nothing else is moving unnecessarily: no annoying extraneous animation. Points for that. Also, nothing particularly annoying happens in response to mouseovers. The hover effects for buttons are subtle and welcome, and nothing else weird happens. Points for restraint. Just because a thing can spin and blink doesn’t mean it should.

Overall this is exactly what I would expect from the website of a fashion house—what I expect from experience, but not what I would hope for. It took too long to load, and it still isn’t doing anything interesting. These design effects are amateurish, and that seems like a particular failure in this business. Of course, yes, I understand that web design is not their business. But doesn’t it seem like the website of a fashion house should be especially well designed? It should be artistic and beautiful, right? And it should still be good on top of that. The art should not get in the way of it being a good web page. All of that is possible. A page can be both artistically delightful and just a good, functional, practical web page. It’s a matter of hiring an exceptionally good design team, and for a fashion house I expect that to be a priority. Here it clearly was not. Or maybe they just don’t realize the page is mediocre because it’s not their business to know that.

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