Like most people in the U.S. I went online today to try to find some deals for the holidays gifts I need to give this year. I made the rounds of my favorite e-commerce sites and I saved Target.com for last. I do that because for me it has always been the gold standard of e-commerce design. Whenever my team and I are interested to see what other major brands are doing as we design a new site, Target always makes the list. We admire them so much because they have always been able to blend fantastic information architecture, usability and visual design into a deep and complicated site.
But today something was different. Something was wrong – horrible wrong. At first I thought maybe the site had been hacked and I raced to check the site in multiple browsers desperately not wanting to believe my eyes. Then the cold truth slowly dawned on me – Target had re-designed their site and it looked like a complete train wreck.
The site that used to demonstrate such fantastic information architecture design control had been replaced with a site that looked like something I would expect for a budget retailer who could care less about the value of design. I don’t even know where to start with parade of bad decisions – the expanding top online ad, the advertising home page wrapper or the drop shadow pornography of the page content would all be contenders.
I know it is easy to be a critic but for me this just feels like a fundamental betrayal of everything Target stands for as a brand. They were the brand who taught consumers that design had value because their products weren’t any better than their competitors but they were better designed. So consumers came to understand that design was a differentiator that meant more to them than just price. They used design to transform the generic interior design of their stores into an engaging experience through nothing more than their in-store displays. So I don’t know what is going on inside of Target that lead to this new direction for their site but I only pray that it doesn’t grow to infect the rest of their brand.