The Importance of Functionality and Substance with Odd Pears Founder Brock Sykes

With its vibrant still life backdrops, striking illustrated catalogue, and clean design throughout, the online shop for Odd Pears is well-crafted for grabbing your attention and leading you through its creatively patterned avenues from start to finish. We were keen to find out more about the inner workings of the site and the design considerations that went into creating an online platform that could actively drive sales and engage its customers.

Founder of Odd Pears, Brock Sykes was kind enough to answer a few questions we had about Odd Pears and talk us through the process of creating its website.

Below, he talks about problems with early iterations, its design aesthetic, and the importance of keeping Odd Pears running at peak functionality.

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Please tell us about yourself and what kind of business Odd Pears is.

Odd Pears is a fashion socks label based in Australia. We sell socks in 3's: 2 matching, 1 odd and it's our mission to encourage individuality and help the planet.

What characteristics of Odd Pears were you trying to convey when you began designing your website?

We wanted to make the user laugh. We wanted them to have fun. We wanted them to actually enjoy browsing our website. This is the first step in our funnel, engaging with our audience.

We initially launched with a basic WordPress website. This was then updated dramatically on our 9-month birthday. The new site was incredible, so much fun! Still built on WordPress + WooCommerce.

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Interestingly in the last 3 months we've pivoted from that website, it still exists somewhere in cyberspace I guess. The reason being without a full-time web development team or staff I was unable to keep servicing the website. It was too technical and as a small company we simply couldn't afford to pay a contractor. We've since migrated, experimentally, to a Shopify store.

We've still tried to make it as fun as possible but are forced to rely more on language to do as we are unable to make it a truly custom experience. I feel this is somewhat brand damaging and to be honest it breaks my heart we are not using the website we'd put so much love, money and time into but it was no longer practical and at the end of the day you've gotta keep the lights on first.

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What do you think makes a well-designed online shopping experience, and how did you incorporate those principles into how your shop works?

I did the Shopify website myself. It's plain, SUPER functional with brilliant language courtesy of my incredible copywriter (who is fortunately also my beautiful girlfriend).

At the end of the day, functionality is king. By “functionality” I'm talking about a combination of things like: mobile optimisation, fast page loading, secure browsing, checkout simplicity etc.

Without at least 99% of the website functioning correctly (and quickly) it won't matter if you're giving away free money, people will just move on without ever thinking twice. We ensure daily our websites functionality is tip-top. Despite how damn boring “functionality” is, it's our top priority.

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Are there any particular design elements that you steered away from using on your site? If so, what are were the reasons for that?

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We've learned from our own mistakes. We opted for an out of the box, fully animated, website experience. It didn't work. Things broke constantly and upkeep was costing me money and causing me headaches.

Things will always break, that's part of life BUT as a small business we just don't have the resources to constantly fix them. If you have a full, dedicated team and all the money in the world I would tell you to build the most beautiful, animated, interactive website in the world because you have the resources to maintain it.

A single guy doesn't go out and buy a 10-bedroom country mansion, they opt for the innner-city 1 or 2 bedroom apartment or small house. They don't have the time, motivation or money to maintain a 10 bedroom-country mansion. For us it was just mostly about money (which sucks!).

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Using illustrations of your products instead of photographs and paper sculpture in your promotional imagery makes your website stand out and look modern. Can you talk us through your thoughts behind going in that direction?

We want to be a label of substance. There are ‘fashion socks' but we would rather be associated with ‘art socks'. Isn't that the most pretentious thing you've ever heard? Art socks…

Unfortunately, though, I mean it. We release new collections in collaboration with artists from all over the world. We like to release them in their own little still-life world. This is a recurring theme in each collection.

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Outside of the visual design of your online store, what actions do you take to drive customers towards making a purchase?

We interact with our customers through social media, email and post. To say Merry Christmas we posted individual, physical, socks to all our customers thanking them for another incredible year.

It's about forever building that relationship with your customers and it should be mentioned that these aren't just customers anymore. They're part of the Odd Pears family, helping to encourage oddities and individuality all over the world. We're building a relationship with people which in turn, we hope, will drive sales.

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What is ‘Planet Sock Club' and how did you come up with that idea?

Planet Socks Club is our online subscription socks club. We send 3 Pears, every 3 months and donate $3 to charity each time. It's a bit of fun and something we're just experimenting with.

Unfortunately, it's not a new idea at all. Subscription boxes have been incredibly popular over the last 5 years with the success of companies like BirchBox and Trunk Club. The largest online sock subscription club has been going since 1999 so we're definitely a little late to the game. As mentioned it's just something we're experimenting with for the minute.

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Where would you like to take Odd Pears as you keep moving on from here?

I want Odd Pears to be in every sock drawer, in every house, in every country, around the world! It's our mission to encourage individuality and help the planet so I hope we'll be there one day.

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Above: Brock Sykes

All images © Odd Pears, 2016

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

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