I recently bought a book at Zoomii.ca (in the US you can use Zoomii.com) and it was the most refreshing online purchase I ever made. This is because of the elegant simplicity and usability of the site.
The goal of the website to emulate a bricks and morter bookstore. Other online bookstores that have attempted this went for a 3D virtual reality approach. Zoomii took a different approach. Instead there is a large zoomable image of all books in the store arranged into sections and bookshelves.
You can easily zoom in and out and pan around. Of course, you can do the normal search and checkout stuff but it is the simple metaphor that grabs your attention. Since the site was developed by Chris Thiessen, a local software developer in the Waterloo area that I had run into a few times, I decided to call him up for lunch and find out how he built Zoomii.
Now what did I get out my experiences with Zoomii and my lunch with Chris?
- Smaller teams are better. Now, Chris is an exceptional developer, extremely disciplined and stubborn and and a team size of 1 would not work for developers lacking these attributes.
- Above all, focus on simplicity. Chris had a simple vision, a simple business model and was able to deliver a simple but powerful user experience.