Beautiful fashion, ugly web design


So I know we talked about the fabulous V Magazine just a few weeks ago, but I had to bring it back.

V Magazine, the gorgeous large-format fashion magazine that caught my design fancy, has broken my heart.

Click here to visit their website and see why. Don’t just visit the page, click around a few links and try to read some stories.

You may have noticed that V Magazine’s web layout is a bit… odd.

I’ll take it further than that. I believe this website falls short of V Magazine’s dynamic print presence, and is a disappointing step in the wrong direction. They need to seriously reconsider what’s happening here – their innovation may have been misplaced.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Before I tear into this website’s design, I want to highlight what’s positive. First of all, it’s good to see a magazine invest time into a seriously unique web presence.  Too many magazine companies are settling for cookie-cutter websites. While familiar, they lack the same sort of artistic depth one has in print. I can understand why V wants to escape that trap – V stands out on the rack with it’s larger-than-standard printing, why shouldn’t it stand out on the web? Here’s the result: a landing home page that’s fluid, colorful, and highlights the photography that drives V.


If you visited the site, you know what I mean. The photo tile homepage is interactive, and the images react with negative-space text when you scroll over them. The swipe bars at the top left are my fave. They switch back and forth between V and it’s underrepresented VMan magazine.

For real, I think this is a great idea. This landing page is really powerful for a fashion magazine, and I’m really impressed with it. V deserves something this unique. However, when one leaves the landing page, things start to get sour.

The Bad

After a viewer is so pleasantly wowed and visually stimulated by the gorgeous home page, one would be inclined to click one of the picture links in order to read a story. Perhaps one wants to explore a photo gallery. Maybe one wants to peruse some of V’s archive photos.

Clicking on one of the photos takes the reader to a layout that probably looks something like this:


Like wait, what? I thought I clicked on a story. What is this? How do I scroll down? How do I go back?

Where are the other photos? If I use my keypad to scroll down, I can only see one. I’m lost and scared!

You may have experienced some of these feelings if you explored the site. This is where I start getting concerned.

Once again, V has tried to reinvent the wheel with their story pages, but this misses the mark really badly. A quick breakdown of why this tragic part of the site falls apart:

The interface – no website should have a learning curve. The navigational tools on these pages are counter intuitive and unnatural. Clicking on an image takes the user to a new, in-window dialog box… where the photo is the same exact size. Why!?

Lack of clarity – the UX falls far short of the glory of the homepage. A user doesn’t know where to go (or where to look) next, due to the lack of any familiar landmarks (scrollbars, back buttons, banner ads.) The more of this you have, the more people are likely to say “screw it” and leave, myself included.

The bells and whistles – the cursor becomes a plus sign on the photos. It turns 45 degrees to the right when you click on a photo. I can share every photo on every social website imaginable, but some of the navigation bar on the left is naturally cut off by the coding. If the basics don’t even work, why spend so much time coding stupid stuff that adds nothing to the UX? Like my dad says: don’t put lipstick on a pig.

If you don’t believe me, go to the site and click around a bit. You’ll start to notice…

The Ugly

Listen, if anyone from V is reading this, I want you to know I think your magazine is great. I like what you’ve done with your web presence, trying to mix it up in a cookie-cutter world. But the fact is this: your website is a teeny bit broken. And broken is ugly.

Here’s the worst parts.

The Responsive Design – Nice try with the 4-stage layout. Looks good on a tablet. Too bad any attempt to read it on a tablet is marred by the same redonkulous interactivity issues I faced on my laptop. In making your website responsive, you gave us 4 different ways to interact with your pages. That’s rough considering people don’t like to think when they try to browse.

The Code – The website invites you to navigate using the keyboard, and if you only use the keyboard, you’ll be fine. But if you attempt to use the mouse to scroll, you encounter a glitch and the website gets stuck.

It seems that the navigation bar on the left side is cut by the size limitations of the site, meaning you have headlines and links that aren’t visible thanks to a simple error.

Sure, the social media sharing tools work, but photos are awkwardly placed at times, and they don’t react well to the responsive design.

These are all problems with your code, and they’ve made me cry openly in the basement of the library. Look what you did, V – look what you did.

The Verdict

V, I don’t want to give up on you. The ideas with this site are solid, and you are an innovator. However, now is the time to step backward and analyze your UX: are you achieving your goals?

I think you best have a long, hard chat with Weird Science Studios, the hooligans who made your site. You’re either paying them too much or not paying them enough.

And if you’re from Weird Science, I’m calling you out! Stop taking advantage of my poor V Magazine and fix their website!

Anyway, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and innovation doesn’t come overnight. I think V did something bold here and deserves to be respected for it – even if it does fall short sometimes.