You may have noticed in the news this week that M&S launched its new website. Generally the feedback seems positive rather than negative.
We at SapientNitro London are very proud that our work partnering with M&S is getting such good feedback. All the teams worked brilliantly together for a common goal.
I have sat next to many of the folks that have lived this for over 2 years and they have my admiration for their dedication to the cause. This was a marathon not a sprint.
So why after 3 years of not posting a single sausage to this blog am I bothering now?
I’ll tell you straight – UX TwitterTwats who idly trash 2.5 years of work without any idea of the sheer scale of the undertaking that M&S and SapientNitro embarked on, that’s why.
And i don’t mean civilians who are dealing with a new website they are not used to and moaning a bit, but so called professionals who with 140 characters sit on their throne and hand out smug criticisms. Well, as the Vietnam vets used to say ‘you weren’t there man!’ Few of these people have any real clue just what an amazing achievement to get something like this out the door really is. Few will ever work on something of this scale.
Lets look at a few things shall we.
This was not just about a website. This was about one of Britain’s greatest brands making a wholesale move into Omni-Channel. They were making a move for the future. See Laura Wade-Gery’s comments about it in the various press that has gone out from M&S. This was a complete look at the way they work with technology from web, to store and much in-between. This wasn’t some twatty piece of front-end technology, or Drupal or Magento or even just a large eCommerce re-platform. This was about changing the direction of a loved supertanker, as it continued with business as usual, in what i think we can all agree, were very challenging trading times. In short, this was BIG.
Oh, just a small point. The website launched on the day it was meant to 2 years previously. On time and on budget. The teams at M&S and at SapientNitro should be dining out on that for months to come. Think about how complex such a mammoth undertaking is and how easily that shit can go wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Amazing accomplishment that everyone involved should be very proud of.
The technology challenge was deep and long and I tip my hat to all involved.
Then there was the massive challenge to make it worthwhile to the people that matter – M&S customers.
Much has been made of the editorial approach. The ‘everyday inspiration’ idea was at the heart of the creative. You see it shining through. The experience has been largely lauded and rightly so. It just ‘works’ on many levels. It brings together the thing that digital often finds very hard – the mix of emotional and rational.
Many eCommerce websites are just lists with pictures. Very rational places to be. There was no way that would ever be good enough. The leap away from Amazon was to give M&S control over its future, to serve its customers online how they wanted to. There had to be a big dose of emotion in the site. It’s not got the instant heart pull of a 30 second ad spot, more the slow release of enjoyment as you discover new content as you move around the site.
The creative is more than solid, it’s pretty wonderful when you think what a balancing act it has managed to pull off thus far. Emotional based web creative, backed by research, content and powerful technology is an awesome thing indeed. At SapientNitro we know that consumers now occupy a space that mixes the virtual, the emotional and the physical. It’s in that space that stories are now existing. The design had to reflect those principals.
Of course there will be a few hiccups – but something of this scale will only truly be stress tested to the very bottom of its capability once it’s truly live with customers doing all sorts of things to it.
There have been a few comments over the mobile experience not being responsive. Well, all i will say is that there a myriad of decisions that get made for very good business reasons to leave things as they are sometimes. If you work in this industry and work with great clients like M&S, you know this wasn’t an oversight. There are reasons for everything that are debated long and hard.
So my riposte to the UX TwitterTwats, lets see you do better then on something as large and as complex as that. Once you have, maybe we’ll talk. Maybe i’ll idly crash out 140 characters aimed at your work.
Finally, to the M&S and SapientNitro teams: Firstly many congratulations, secondly, that was just the beginning. Now it gets interesting.