Review: Neil Francis on… Fab.com

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when your letterbox and inbox gets stuffed to the gunwhales with the good the bad and the ugly. Every morning there’s a deluge of mail and email from retailers and etailers to wade through.
Having spent all the money I’m prepared to spend on gifts weeks ago, the delete button now has a dent in it. But before emptying the trash file I thought I’d spent a couple of minutes just checking that I haven’t missed anything.
And there’s one company which seems more eager than all the others to ensure that I don’t miss a trick.
Fab.com started life as a social network for gay men called Fabulis, which didn’t take off, before being rebooting as “design ecommerce” site in June 2011. The site had 1.5 million registered members at the start of 2012, but now has nearly 5m, with a fifth of those in Europe.
It offers thousands of cool, designer items from manufacturers all over the globe. Think Not On The High Street, if Apple did it. There’s a lot to like there if you like that sort of thing; groovy furniture, home furnishings, accessories.
The devil is in the detail. A well designed site, and carefully constructed, easy to follow shopping experience makes browsing and buying remarkable enjoyable.
So what’s my problem?
Well, there’s just so much…stuff going on. Here are a couple of examples of email subject fields:
3 Days Left To Shop. Wild Ski Helmet Covers. Vintage-Look Letters. Divine Rockers & Recliners. Cool Notebooks. Cheerful Prints. Fair Trade Street Fashion. Bold Bed & Bath Linen & More Last Minute Gifts @ Up To 50% Off & Free Shipping.
4 Days Left To Shop. Great Gifts Including: Fun iPhone & iPad Cases. Modern Men’s Fashion. Cute USB Sticks. Action Packed T-Shirts. Bold Watches. Art Inspired Cushions, Throws & More Everyday Design @ Up To 50% Off & Free Shipping.
Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the tone of voice here, even though it is just a list of stuff. This tone is amplified in a very chummy way all through the website. But there’s just too much of it.
Add to that the fact that that Fab.com sales messages hit my inbox two or three times a day. Maybe this is OK in the run-up to Christmas, but when I checked my trashbox I saw they’ve been doing this every day since I registered in October. Hundreds of unopened emails lay there, trilling at me in that Apple-y cool kinda way.
Aaargh! Enough already!
In design, they say, less is more. And I think Fab.com could do with doing a little less. Having thought it would take a few minutes to check and clear the trash, it ended up taking hours. So if you don’t get a physical card from me this Christmas now you know why. But please consider yourself virtually carded.
Have a great 2103. And smile. You’re designed to. (So say Fab.)

Neil Francis is a freelance creative director and former creative partner at Stephens Francis Whitson (now VCCP me)

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