Years ago, I came across a poster with a picture of this hammer on it. The poster called out some of the features of the hammer in a similar way that I am doing here. Some of the features were both practical and inventive like rubber nodules on the top of the hammer which prevents it from making marks on the wall when removing nails. Other parts of the design, like the orange strip were for pure style—no practical reason behind it at all. The hammer was also both affordable and durable.
And this image stuck with me ever since. Whenever I lead my teams in the design of a Website, I think of this simplistic example. You don't get much more basic than a hammer. But the designers here made improvements upon the original hammer convention.
Sites, like the hammer are often times meant to accomplish something. To "pound" in a nail so to speak. But they are also experiences which help differentiate you from the competition. The Internet is the great equalizer, so if your hammer looks, feels, and works better than someone else's, then you have a good chance of stealing that customer away from their brand to yours.
I showed this hammer to my brother-in-law who is a residential contractor and he practically drooled over it. He talked about how he wanted to go out to the store and hold one in his hand so he could feel the weight and grip. He liked what he saw and wanted to experience it in an even more tactile fashion. And whenever I design a site, I always remember this example. Will my site design entice the user to go out and do something—to take action? To experience the brand first hand? To engage on a deeper level? Will it make the user drool?
How often do we do this? How often do we design things which both gets the job done and rises above the sea of sameness?