This is the thought that grew into Stylaquin, “The internet is designed by men, for the way men shop”. Getting my head around why that mattered, and how it constrained innovation, was the first bit that needed to be unraveled. Figuring out how to bring a fresh approach to the online experience without mucking up what was an amazing achievement and worked for half the population was much harder.
I’m a nerd, always have been. My first brush with computers was in high school in the late 70s. We had to write a computer program with punch cards. It was a pointless assignment even then. In 1980 computer scientists Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn are credited with inventing the Internet. For the next thirty years computers, and all things digital, were in a state of constant upheaval and innovation. As soon as you bought a new computer it was obsolete. The computer scientists leading the revolution were focused on two primary objectives: More speed and more stability, pretty much in that order.
By 1990 the world wide web arrived. I remember creating a primitive web page. It was slow and not overly attractive, but it worked. Then came online payments and suddenly we could shop online. It was still slow, and a bit cumbersome, so the focus remained on speed and stability. Soon there was cable, and broadband, and fiberoptic networks, and then modems disappeared. (Oh, that sound.) Somewhere in all that UX became a concern. Apple blew us away with the iPhone, and then “cell phones” became “mobile devices” and the landscape shifted again to focus again on speed, and stability while making shopping work in the palm of our hands.
The relentless focus on speed and stability has paid off brilliantly. I can shop from my phone, I can shop from my tablet, and I can shop from my computer, all are fast and reliable. What shopping isn’t though is fun. Think about how we got here, shopping online wasn’t designed to be engaging and fun. It was, and still is, designed to get you to what you want as fast as possible. If you know what you want before you start, you’re in for a fast and stable experience. As a nerd, I can appreciate all the work that went into that stunning achievement. As someone who enjoys shopping though, I want more, I want a better experience. I’m not always in a hurry and I don’t always know what I want. I want to browse, I want to consider, I want a beautiful, fun, engaging online shopping experience.
I tried to explain to my fellow nerds that there was something missing. I actually code-named the missing piece Project Pink. I tried to get my internet nerd friends to see that there was a problem, but just got blank stares. Then came my big realization “The internet is designed by men, for the way men shop.” My computer nerd friends were all men, of course they didn’t see a problem. The internet was already perfect for the way men shop.
Fast forward a few years to a catalog conference, (I’m a catalog designer by trade, thus hiding my nerdiness behind a veneer of artiness) and I started to hear the first rumblings from large brands. They were struggling with online branding and couldn’t leverage their image assets online very well. I added this new problem to my rather vague thoughts about wanting the online shopping experience to be more fun, more beautiful, and more engaging. There were multiple obstacles in the way, like how do you create meaningful change and not re-engineer the experience that works for half the population? But by now, we were living in a time of computational luxury, we had speed and we had stability. (Well, mostly.)
On the train ride home I kept picking at the edges of the problem and then, a really interesting idea popped into my head. What if we keep everything the same and just add rooms on for the new things we want to do. Literally, think outside the browser box. It seemed like such an obvious solution that I was sure it existed already, but I found nothing. Then, I reached out to an old high school friend who was a Ruby on Rails developer to see if what I had in mind was even possible. He said it was possible, and a really cool idea.
So I took my niece Claire to the US Patent office in DC. We had a fun weekend at the Smithsonian, and then a full day Monday searching for patents. We found nothing. Having exhausted every remaining excuse, I filed for a patent and found a Tech Founder who could envision and build the same future I could see so clearly. A future that is beautiful, fun, engaging, connected and so much more.
Stylaquin’s Tech Founder, David Sturman (Ph.D. from MIT’s renowned Media Lab) has a mind that is both nimble and curious. We have been building Stylaquin to be a website enhancement that brings a more beautiful, branded and engaging online experience to online shopping. It works on most websites, all we need is an API. There have been challenges and stumbles, but the resulting product is 4X faster than the click in, click out, click in, click out, way we shop now. Shoppers who use Stylaquin when they shop stay on-site longer, view more products, convert at a higher rate and come back more often. Why? Because it’s more fun. We spend more time doing things that are fun and that we enjoy.
If you’ve read this far—thank you! It’s fun to share the journey. We hope you will continue to take it with us, whether you are an online retailer looking for ways to elevate your site beyond the ordinary, or a fellow shopper who wants something more, something better—welcome to the online shopping revolution!