Summer 2007


‘Appealing to middle class virtues, prudent, reserved’

The online version of the Waitrose supermarket chain, which addresses the needs of ‘busy people in the 21st Century, without compromising on the dedication to customer care and service that people miss from the past’. Designed by Ocado’s in-house team in 2002.

John O’Reilly: Waitrose branding and advertising has been so consistent that this consistency has emerged as a brand value over time. Waitrose and Ocado appeal to the middle-class virtues of the sensible, the prudent, the reserved. The recessive photography of consumer goods reminds us of what Marx might have called the ‘use value’ of goods rather than their ‘sign value’.

Adrian Shaughnessy: The real-world version of Waitrose offers good quality design: its packaging, printed literature and stores are smart, functional and welcoming. But the Ocado site shows the sharp divide between the real world of shopping trolleys and checkout desks, and online shopping. The site’s blunt functionality would be unacceptable in a store.

Nobody could argue that this site doesn’t work. But, as usability experts take over Web design, designers with their quaint ideas about proportion, balance and style, are increasingly eradicated from the equation. Certainly those ‘busy 21st-century people’, as they order their groceries at their desks while bolting sandwiches, care only about speed and functionality. But usability without design results only in dullness. Just as the real-world supermarkets had to evolve from being pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap emporia, so, too, will retail websites such as Ocado.