A chat with the builders
The story and people behind the new MENDO.nl
You're at the new MENDO.nl, built from scratch by Build in Amsterdam. We asked Build’s co-founder Daan Klaver, lead designer Julian Mollema and MENDO’s Joost Albronda why the new website looks the way it does.
First off, what was the main goal of the new website?
Joost: “Our previous website would have been five years old this month, which is basically antique for the net. So it was time for change. Like we did with our first webshop, we wanted to create something spectacular from a design point of view. But at the same time, we wanted it to be very intuitively too.”
Build in Amsterdam
What’s the design philosophy behind the new website?
Daan: “The books MENDO sells are obviously very beautiful: we wanted the site to be the stage for those books. It’s a unique experience to buy a book in the physical MENDO store, and we wanted to match that feeling online. The new site had to be one experience, where you can feel the books.”
How did you manage to translate that feeling?
Daan: “In store, you can touch each book. You can feel the texture and the paper. We thought it was important to offer that feeling, so we translated that feeling through photography. We consciously made the decision to not only show pictures from within the book, but to show the book itself as well. Your attention is drawn to the physical book, instead of just some pictures from that book. We’re showing them from up close, with a lot of super sharp imagery. We also show how big the books are – we’re creating a feeling of scale, sometimes with a funny element: you might just spot a pizza next to a book to get that sense of scale. We also really want to show that MENDO isn’t just a book shop – they’re curators as well. If you’re in the store, you can really feel that they handpicked every book themselves, you can tell that you’re looking at the best books in the world.”
Do I get the same experience on a mobile device?
Daan: “Definitely, we’ve put a lot of time into the mobile version of MENDO.nl. It’s a cliche story, but still very true: more and more people are browsing on their phones. Phones also keep on getting bigger, so it’s very important to have a good mobile site. A lot of other site builders scale their normal site to a small, mobile version: they line up all the content underneath each other. The rich experience of the regular site is also available on your mobile phone. You get that desktop experience by our use of one and two column layout, and we also have a built-in feature that minimises text blocks, so that you can click on them for a popup in your mobile environment.”
‘It never ceases to surprise you.’
‘It never ceases to surprise you.’
Can you tell me a bit more about the colour palet you guys used?
Daan: “We made sure to build a clean site with a white feel, so that the book really comes into its own. Although the typography is extant, the images are in the lead. The colour is extracted from the cover of the book you’re looking at in the photo slider. Each book gets the stage it deserves, within the MENDO identity. We looked for a set of colours that match MENDO perfectly, so if you’re looking at each book you can still see it’s sold by MENDO, even though it might not be made by them. The colours we’ve picked are a bit off: we’ve transformed each colour to a more distanced shade you won’t see that much in day-to-day life.”
What was the biggest challenge?
Julian: “We spent a lot of time thinking about how we could translate a physical book store to an online environment. Like Daan said, it’s easy to just upload some picture that are in the books, but we didn’t want to show pictures, we wanted to show a book. How do you show a book, and not the contents of the book? On the product page, for instance, we added a miniature of each books cover, so that it’s really clear which book you’re looking at.”
I saw there are quite a few animations in the new website.
Daan: “That’s correct! We normally make flat, minimalistic sites: we’re using animations to create depth. If you scroll on the site, you’ll see that a lot moves a bit – photo and text blocks have their own pace of moving when you scroll past them. We’d like to see the new site as a magazine: it doesn’t have the same layout on every page – it never ceases to surprise you. That creates a rich feeling, but it’s not only about the feeling – animations should have a function as well. That’s why the animations are an essential part of the experience. It’s also really easy to buy a book because of those animations: if you’re scrolling through a page that’s dedicated to a book, you’ll see an animation coming from the right where you can immediately add the book to your shopping basket. We also made 3D renders for the ‘coming soon’ books, so that visitors get a good a idea of what a book’s going to look like.”
Julian: “The design of those animations is based on browsing a book. If you hover over a picture of a book, you can see three previews. You can still see that it’s based on browsing, without utilising the cliche animation of turning a page. I really like the layers you can see in the design – the homepage lies on top of the footer, and the letters lie on top of the homepage itself.”
What was the collaboration like?
Daan: “That was very inspiring. Because of their background in design and advertising, and because they’re making books themselves as well, they really know what they want. They have a big sense of taste and style. So we really had to deliver! When we presented our first design, which was already quite good, they told us it was a bit goody-goody: they challenged us to step it up a notch without losing the functionality of the design. That’s always the tricky balance: a webshop has to be very practical as well. It’s easy to make something pretty, but it has to be functional as well. Also, the content they delivered was top-notch. From fine pictures to great text work – it really enhances the website. It stands or falls by the content.”
Joost: “We loved the collaboration. I believe we can say we were a great match and we inspired each other to make this something special. Not only during the initial stage, when everything is seemingly possible, but during the entire process. In fact, even after the webshop went online, Build kept on tweaking and improving things – things we did not even know of. In the past, we created quite a few websites with various developers, and we can easily say that is rare. And something else we particularly liked is that nothing was ever ‘technically impossible’.”
Which page on the new MENDO.nl shows best what the new site is all about?
Daan: “That’ll be the Made By MENDO page, I guess. Because it features the books that are made by MENDO, you can really see their take on design. If you click on one of those books, you get the ultimate site experience. You can really feel the books on that page, that’s where everything comes together.”
Joost: “I love the product overview pages. It’s where the typography, the photography, the colour scheme and the product meet. And that subtle little parallax effect in the image on the second row – that’s Build in Amsterdam at its best. I believe we’ve created a platform that is unparalleled in the business we’re in.”
Read more about the case on Build’s own website.
And might we add that our new webshop has already picked up three awards. FWA Of The Day, SOTD by Awwwards and SOTD at CSSDesignAwards. Pretty neat.
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