Zappos’ culture evident in their design

We all could learn a lot from Zappos way of thinking, in particular that everyone has the ability to instill their design with a strong sense of culture.

So yesterday Amazon bought Zappos. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos explains in this video why he is so enamored with the company he is acquiring: he loves their culture.

As the news broke, Seth Godin asked When you buy Zappos, what do you buy? and points out that culture can be freely had by anyone building any sort of company.

Shoes | Zappos.com

As for me, I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with Brian Kalma, who is Director of User Experience at Zappos. At the time Zappos was planning a major overhaul of the site and we were chatting about what changes they were going to address. Most of the topics were the normal things you would expect like a stronger navigation system, revamped product pages, etc.

But one thing that Brian kept stressing was the need to communicate the culture of Zappos through the design of the site. At first I thought he meant style, as in the style of the site. Brian explained that they kept the style of the site wonky on purpose, to convey a sense of informality and fun.

But style is not all Brian meant. After he kept repeating the importance of culture in the design I began to get a sense that he meant content as well. He pointed to the Zappos shoes page, where there is an image of actual Zappos employees wearing Zappos shoes. Kinda weird, huh? It seems like an easy thing to do, but nobody does it. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that Brian said was so important to him: surfacing the culture of happiness of Zappos in the design of every part of the experience of buying shoes.

And, well, it looks like it worked.

So, kudos to Brian, Tony, & team on having the laser-like focus to permeate every part of the company with the culture of happiness, all the way down to the content and design of zappos.com. I think we all could learn a lot from their way of thinking, in particular (as Seth pointed out) everyone has the ability to instill their design with a strong sense of culture.

Published: July 23rd, 2009

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