Douchebag from Victoria? Or a smart step in the right direction…

Two days ago, Victoria-based designer Andrew Wilkinson posted this Twitter update:

The @Zappos design has driven me crazy for ages. I finally hit my breaking point and redesigned it.

His link goes to a letter, You’re killing me, Zappos, which Andrew sent to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. In that missive, he details the deficiencies of Zappos’s recent Zeta redesign. Via Twitter, Andrew also directly “@-ed” two Zappos execs (here and here), but perhaps most importantly (or most strategically), he posted the link for his Zappos redesign to Hacker News.

…Which is where the OMFG factor started kicking in.

In his letter, Andrew is blunt in his assessment of the Zappos design:

Your new “Zeta” design is definitely an improvement, but you’re taking the site from 1999 to 2003. You constantly stress your focus on the customer, yet create web experiences that are so unsightly and confusing that they border on sadism.

But he didn’t leave it at haughty generalities, he cut to the chase by constructively critiquing specific aspects:

  • Clear iconography
  • Visual hierarchy
  • Unified Link Styles
  • Blurry Images
  • Who, What, Why

Then he added, “To help illustrate my points, I’ve mocked up my own take on the Zappos homepage.” You can check it out here.

I think it’s a damn good design. But on Hacker News, people went nuts (hence the OMFG factor).

Mostly, Andrew Wilkinson was taken to task for being uppity. He had done everything he could to make sure his redesign would get noticed, …and it seems the folks on Hacker News resented that:

This redesign actually makes me angry – it’s rare that a redesign has this ability to do that. So, designer, if the aim of your redesign was to create customer rage, then feel free to touch your nipples in ecstasy, because you succeeded.


I must say I don’t like these sort of open letters. They make the sender seem like a giant douchebag, which I’m in no way stating he that is, but it just doesn’t seem fair.

Andrew’s response was to mock up reblog a new “About me” on his Tumblog:

Hi. My name is Andrew Wilkinson and I’m a douchebag based in Victoria, Canada.


So… do you prefer Zappos’s design or Andrew’s redesign? Or are you caught up in the brouhaha over his alleged lack of humility in approaching Zappos? Do you think Zappos cares?

Reading through the comments that attack Andrew for not being respectful enough toward Zappos, I was reminded of a recent Harvard Business blog post by David Silverman, titled How to Ask a (Near) Stranger for a Favor, where Silverman emphasizes the importance of showing respect. It all sort of makes sense, but in the comments to that post several people point out that the line between respect and toadying can get pretty blurry.

Let’s face it: we’re social creatures and we’re all networking all the time. You can look at Andrew Wilkinson’s redesign of the Zappos site as either a sincere attempt to produce a better design or as a clever strategic networking and marketing move, and then argue about whether it lacked the appropriate level of respect.

Just don’t expect humble pie on this designer’s menu.

Postscript: Good follow-up post by Amy Huang, here.