“Too often online shopping is a complete bore. The howies shopping experience, however, is packaged in a tight, elegant Flash interface allowing users to quickly and easily browse the goods. Plus, it’s a real treat to dig through their Beliefs section and see how socially and globally aware the company is.” —juror Craig Swann
“A clear and simple interface that offers a good sense of the people behind the company. It goes way beyond just being a well-designed, online catalog.” —juror Allegra Burnette
Overview: Online catalog for a boutique sports clothing company with a strong environmental and socially-conscious philosophy. More than a shopping site, howies supports the state of mind of its devotees and even offers an honor system lending library.
• 63 products available online
• 342 files, and 3 Flash levels
• 2 months, 2 dual 867 mHz G4s, 2 humans and quite a lot of tea
Comments by Marcus Taylor and Craig Thomas:
“We’d worked with howies on a number of projects and knew they valued creativity highly. No matter what the medium, they had a unique voice and used it to communicate the howies brand. Come to think of it, ‘brand’ isn’t a word they’d probably use; they eschew the traditional route to brand building and instead express their own values—a social, environmental and ethical approach to business, done with a no-nonsense, honest attitude.
“We’d always thought that their original site lacked the values of their annual catalog. Half product catalog, half soap box, it always contains captivating pieces ranging from the fish farming industry and junk mail, to local news in Cardigan Bay. Since, in their catalog, products and their beliefs are so intertwined, it became the overriding concept and communication device for their site. From the homepage down, as soon as the user navigates to one ‘side’ of the site, links to a corresponding product or belief are available in the opposite column.
“When approaching design problems we don’t always opt for Flash, but in this instance we felt that Flash was the only way we could communicate some of the issues effectively. For instance, in ‘Packaging,’ we calculated the amount of plastic bottles sold in the U.K. that day, based on the users’ CPU clock, and compared it to the weight of six B52 bombers. Users were encouraged to download a PDF—with the names and addresses of management at various supermarkets—and write letters complaining about the overuse of plastics in packaging. For us, it wasn’t so much the use of a cutting-edge technology as it was an appropriate use of technology.
“Our original proposal was a full e-commerce site. Unfortunately, budgetary constraints and the lack of an IT infrastructure made it impossible. (At the time, broadband hadn’t arrived in that part of Wales and running a database-driven site, with stock management control for all orders, wasn’t feasible with dial-up.) Instead, a callback feature was added so users could send an e-mail to howies requesting a return call.”