Visit the website of the clothing retailer Entireworld, and you might think your browser is broken. A patchwork of square images hovers in space over a mostly white background. Pictures scroll on top of a sparse navigation pane set awkwardly to the side. New-age music reminiscent of whale songs plays in the background.
It’s disconcerting, a little weird, and entirely intentional. The look is an example of “brutalist design,” a descendant of a post-war architectural style that emphasizes raw materials, geometric shapes, and a bare-bones color palette. It’s part of a trend to shake up web marketing that just might be the rejuvenation of conventional retailing.
Neck-snapping website designs like these are a response to what Philip Jackson calls the “Shopify Effect.” Jackson, who is senior vice president of commerce solutions at customer experience agency Rightpoint, explains that while Shopify has democratized e-commerce by making it easy for anyone to set up a retail website, it has also had the unintentional side effect of homogenizing the web.
“Every single e-commerce site looks the same,” he says. The result is: “It’s cheaper than ever to make a site, but costlier than ever to find a customer.”
He has a point. Take a look at any B2B tech company website and you’ll see the same basic experience: big photo up top, a few bullet point sentences with “learn more” links, a video or two, and an assortment of logos or blog…