The 2 biggest questions about the Target redesign

The dust hasn’t settled on the new redesign: the Web (OK, well, the web design community and a few actual Target customers) are looking for answers:

  1. Why, Target? Why?
  2. Who is responsible?

The first question may be a little easier to address, since Target has now responded to the criticism. They insist the redesign is based on pre-launch testing and positive post-launch traffic and sales, and promise to keep making adjustments as they learn more. Connections are also being drawn to the end of Target’s reliance on the Amazon website platform.

The answer to the second question is more of a closely-guarded secret. AdFreak checked in with some notable digital agencies known to be working with Target (Olson, SapientNitro, Huge, Razorfish), and all denied involvement. According to AdFreak, some said they believed the redesign was handled in-house.


An interesting comment on the Jezebel website by a friend of a past Target employee is a little chilling. Admittedly, we don’t know the full story behind why someone in management would address improvement suggestions by telling the designer, “not to bother.” Still, anyone with corporate experience is probably reading these words with a mixture of bitterness and resignation. In fairness to Target’s in-house team, the mess probably has more to do with pressure from above.

While it’s pragmatic to stop at, “this was tested: this is what worked.” It’s just as practical to recognize that testing still needs to be coupled with basic, purposeful design principles. Target in particular has been setting itself apart from the other big box stores for years with its emphasis on better design. In that light, this can also be considered a failure beyond visual identity, to brand.

In case you were curious, in an AdFreak follow-up piece, Target Defends Homepage Redesign but Still Won’t Say Who Did It.

Writers aren’t too happy about the whole Big Red Periods thing, either.

Are you responsible for the redesign? Would you admit it if you were? Let us know in the comments.

  • Arp

    I’m guessing their focus group consisted of a bunch of people who really like grocery circulars. Or who haven’t seen websites since 1999.

  • Peter Mumford

    So, abuse of drop shadow is just too much to bear? What about over use of hyperlink rollover effects?

  • Piper

    Because their previous site was better. That’s all.

  • penina

    Just a general reply (and thanks for the comments): I think what’s causing so much uproar is that this feels like a disappointing change of direction for the brand. Target shoppers have enjoyed a less exhausting shopping experience than in warehouse-y Walmart and the clean graphic style added to the feeling that maybe things would keep getting more humane. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that watchdog organizations give them only slightly higher scores (still seeking updated numbers on this) for social and environmental issues than Walmart.

  • Bryan

    Old one was better just checked (never seen the old one, I am from the UK):

    • Drew McDowell

      Thanks for posting the “before”. I don’t think the redesign is any worse than the old one, though the bar was set very low. It doesn’t seem like a change of direction at all, more a missed opportunity.

  • Rakel

    The drop shadows on the homepage are by far the worst part about it. If they just toned them down a bit and lightened them up it would be improved by about 50% just like that. For me, the shadows compete with the product and the text too much, they are all I see. The rest I can live with, it’s not the worst or the best. The homepage does take a long time to load, and causes things to overlap while waiting, which isn’t very good either.

    Target usually has really good branding, so it’s just surprising to see that their website is not that great.

  • Ulrik Groth-Andersen

    Oh, but it is bad. For a big company like Target, the UX and design flaws are not what is to be expected of a professional product.

    For instance, the content boxes on the front page behave differently. For some the whole box is a target area, and for others they are not. But content looks the same with with images and som links with underline hover. The hover marker is also varied from element to element, some boxes have no hover, som links have, and further down there is a thick red line as hover indicator. Aesthetically, the dropshadows create alot of noise with such heavy color and size, since the darkest part of the drop shadow is only a few nuances away from some of the text colors. Why is there a wierd large space in the middle of the page? Titles change on items when hovering from “something about what you save” to “very different wierd things”? Contrast on cart icon and red-card icon is non excisting in the top menu. Why is there an empty left hand box on the front page? Waste of important space…

    The website as a product developed and delivered by somone, just seems way too unfinished, with way too many inconsistencies.

  • brendan

    Looks exactly like what i would imagine a big-name department store’s website to look like.

    Next time can you please post a “before” picture before assuming everyone know what the hell Targets old site looks like, haha

  • wayneraymond

    It’s terrible because the whole point of interaction design is that it is invisible and the content is priority. The UI competes with the content.

  • Anthony Porto

    Lets hope a redesign keeps their site safer

  • prakash prakash

    This article really help for website owners.

  • D Thomas

    Great article Penina, thanks for sharing