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Show DN: Present Plus

5 years ago from , Designer at Mollie

On October 14th 2013 we (Present Plus) kicked off a project to re-design our own website. We, like the rest of the world wanted something different, a new experience. Various iterations of beautiful simplexity and 6 months later, we still weren’t happy. So we set out to do something different. What we’ve landed upon here, one year later, is exactly what we were looking for: a whole lot less.

The new site for Present Plus is supposed to take us away from the usual navigation we’ve been used to for the last 25 years and to put the control of the experience in your hands; the user.

We have attempted to build a small search engine, a custom CMS to input questions and answers and a brutal approach to the things we have created over the last 4 years to only show the stuff thats relevant.

We’ve killed off the standard menu bar, incorporated voice recognition and built a site driven by experience and not by page rankings.

Our goal was to just show things people were interested in and try to serve relevance as opposed to sell services.

We’d love to hear from you let us know what you think.

http://www.presentplus.com/

You can also follow me on Twitter where I will keep you posted with updates or you can give me some feedback on Dribbble.

18 comments

  • Tom HareTom Hare, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    As a search tool, it's beautiful but as a showcase for your design business (I assume that's what you do, I can't actually find anywhere that explicitly says), I don't think it serves it's purpose.

    To pick out a couple of lines from your posts:

    We believe in an online world that’s as close to human as possible

    Our goal was to just show things people were interested in and try to serve relevance as opposed to sell services.

    If I pass a restaurant, I can probably guess from the outside what kind of food they serve but if I decide to enter, I'd like to see a menu rather than guess at the dishes I can eat.

    The new site for Present Plus is supposed to take us away from the usual navigation we’ve been used to for the last 25 years

    Whilst challenging the status quo is great and innovation should be encouraged, 25 year-old conventions exist for a reason.

    Really interesting, thanks for sharing.

    14 points
    • Giel Cobben, 5 years ago

      Thanks Tom, it’s always good to get feedback that is well-argued.

      We definitely have respect for conventions, but Present Plus is a company with an experimental nature, and we love to have a website that reflects this. We used three principles when building it:

      • Relevance: show what people are looking for, nothing else. Millions of websites overwhelm people with information, stuff that they're not looking for. We don't want to compromise on this.
      • ‘Search is the menu’. People ‘shape’ the website based on what they search. It’s done before (Google, Pinterest), although for a company like Present Plus it’s something new. We'd like to do things that aren't done before ;)
      • Visitors become users. They are required to interact with the website, be more active, instead of ‘passively’ clicking menu items.

      We realize this design might be a bit polarizing, it might cost us some visitors (people that don’t get it). But we believe there will be people that ‘get it’, people who will become even bigger fans.

      It's a bold move, and there’s a risk here, but from this 1.0 we’ll look at how people use it, and adjust it if it’s needed.

      Thanks.

      2 points
      • Tom HareTom Hare, 5 years ago

        The method you employ is as important as the result so it's good to hear a slice of the thought process. Good job.

        0 points
  • Jeff EscalanteJeff Escalante, 5 years ago

    So here's the problem with this: I don't want the power to control the experience, and on top of that I don't know what my options are.

    Let's take the first point first. While saying that you are giving the users the power to control their own experience sounds nice, that is not how you want it to go. This is your company, you want to present the things to the user that are most relevant and important. Your website is the opportunity to showcase your company, what's important to you about it, and why I should care. If you leave that up to the user, they could get a bad experience. For example, I personally had a terrible experience. I saw the blank search bar, had no idea what the company was in any way at all, and typed "help" into the search bar. It turned up a couple generic snippets of things in tiny boxes, then I left. When you control the experience the user has, you can always ensure they have a good experience, and you have showcased what matters, rather than having them wander off the path you intended and have a bad time.

    As a comparison, this is similar to saying that you have an innovative new technique for pitching VCs, which involves saying "what do you guys want to hear?" First, they don't want to hear anything. You are presenting your company to them, they want to hear you talk about what you think is important. But ok, they have no option, you have forced their hand, and now if they ask something you don't have covered you go "oh sorry I don't really know but want to hear a generic description about us?" It's like uncomfortably forcing them into a command line dungeon crawler game where they have to explore rooms and inspect items, when what they are after is just getting to the point, and on top of that they don't even know what the point you're trying to make is, so they have to find that too.

    This transitions nicely into the next point, which is that I don't know anything about the company, so what should I search for? For all I know, this is a gardening company. Should I search for gardening, or flowers? Or do I need to search for "what is this" or "about" then read an article about what the company is in order to just go back and make a second search that's maybe for what I wanted? Maybe I want to know how much you guys charge. I searched for "pricing" and it turned up an article on selling illustrations through kuvva. Or maybe I'll take the bait and search "work" since this is the only thing that clearly will have results. Now I get a uniform panel of 12 projects. Are these all the projects you have done? That's not very many. Which one is most important? They all seem to be weighted the same.

    But most importantly and over all of this, maybe I didn't want anything. I rarely go to a company's site wanting something specific. What I want is to hear the company's pitch to me and what they think is the most important thing to tell me. Here, you guys have told me a resounding nothing, which is just going to make me leave the site.

    Sorry to be that dude leaving the harsh review, but it had to happen. Props for the nice clean design and making an attempt to a new user interface, I just think this particular idea backfired really hard.

    13 points
  • Tad MilbournTad Milbourn, 5 years ago

    It's definitely a departure from current design conventions. I searched it for "what do you do" to hopefully learn more about your business. The response I got was "where's the menu?" and text that explained why you did what you did.

    Overall, I found it very focused on "you" as opposed to the customer/prospect. It's answering the question of "why did you make these design decisions for yourself?" instead of "What can you do for me?" (which is what I expect most visitors of your site would be thinking).

    What if you showed some recent results under the search bar initially? I found the blank canvas forced me to think a bit too hard.

    3 points
  • Jimmy HookerJimmy Hooker, 5 years ago

    I know this was probably fun to create, and probably took a lot of work, but it's completely insane.

    You aren't a search engine, you're a website, and you're hiding the whole thing. You can achieve the goals you set out for without making the site a usability nightmare.

    I hate giving this kind of feedback, because it's obvious you spent a ton of time on this and it certainly looks cool. But you are overestimating your own importance in the world. You are just a business website (even if a creative one), and no one wants to have to figure out your website just because you wanted to turn things on their head. They just want to see whether or not you are what they were looking for. This kind of thing is much better applied to fun experiments or projects, not your store front.

    3 points
  • David O'CallaghanDavid O'Callaghan, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    It's interesting to see this concept being applied - Myself and a former colleague thought about in the past but never really explored it in great detail.

    After using your site though I feel it makes the user work too hard to think about what they where they want to go next. I like the suggestions in the search field but you have to make a conscious decision where to go next as oppose to being led through the site and it's a pain to go back to the search results.

    I would love to see how this concept performs against your old site in the future.

    3 points
  • Ryan DRyan D, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Don't make me think. link

    2 points
  • Giel Cobben, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    You can also follow me on Twitter where I will keep you posted with updates or you can give me some feedback on Dribbble.

    1 point
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, 5 years ago

    When I type 'fuck' in the search bar nothing happens...

    1 point
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, 5 years ago

    what’s happening in the present plus

    hate

    :(

    0 points
  • Hendra SusantoHendra Susanto, 5 years ago

    Cool idea, but I still think you need to add some tutorials or maybe conventional navigations for first time users who may not understand what is going on.

    0 points
  • Ymar FrenkenYmar Frenken, 5 years ago

    2 things I like here:

    1: present plus designing and building this experimental website. It might be not be the most effective en influential concept but I do like it that they are moving away from the tradional navigation most websites have

    and 2: The constructive and detailed feedback of all the other designers

    0 points
  • Troy RobinsonTroy Robinson, 5 years ago

    Why not keep everything the same and add a quick description of your company above the search bar? This would add a bit of context to the searching situation. For example: "We are Present Plus, a premiere London and Amsterdam creative agency focused on solving the critical design problems of our digital age. What else would you like to know?"

    0 points
  • Jos BezemerJos Bezemer, 5 years ago
    • I like the fact that this will be remembered and will be talked about.

    • I don't like the fact that I have no clue what the hell you guys are doing.

    Seems like that was the whole point?

    0 points
  • Jason FullerJason Fuller, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    I don't think it will take over the world but it's a new idea and provides food for thought.

    0 points
  • Beth DeanBeth Dean, 5 years ago

    So this is a clever idea, and probably hard to execute, great job there. As a user, it's TLDR, you put all the work on me and demand a lot of attention commodity up front. After typing in one search term and not really seeing any design work, I left.

    0 points