A new way to collect art.
Art galleries can be intimidating for consumers who are new to buying art. At the same time, the gallery environment offers the kind of experience that can be hard to replicate online. Restoration Hardware wanted to create a way for consumers to shop for original contemporary art and bring art previously confined to niche markets into the public view. To enable the right user experience for both artists and collectors, RH needed an e-commerce site that could bridge the real and virtual worlds.
With the business model not yet fully defined, Huge partnered with Restoration Hardware to create a strategic vision. We devised an art buying experience grounded in e-commerce that would take its cues from the real-life process of browsing art in a gallery. To reflect the real through the virtual, we developed a skeumorphic site for a full inventory of works, which would offer content to educate art buyers about every piece.
The look and feel of a gallery.
We designed and built an online gallery where works of art appear as though mounted on a wall with a floor, with realistic lighting and shadowing. They hang next to other works in a digital gallery and appear to scale relative to each other and silhouettes of people. When users click on each work, they find the detailed information that they’d usually find beside the piece on a gallery wall. Another click reveals the feature called “the moment alone” allowing the viewer to isolate the painting on a blank screen, away from other design elements. They can zoom in on the painting, revealing brushstrokes and other media in high definition.
Prospective buyers can save their favorite works of art and share their choices with others. A custom interface enables sales representatives to service high-value and high-frequency customers personally. And it was important to us that users can’t exit to RestorationHardware.com: the experience is designed to be both immersive and autonomous.
How we built it.
From a technical perspective, building RHContemporaryArt.com represents a triumph of flexible collaboration between Huge technologists and the team at Restoration Hardware. We pursued an agile approach, designing and developing prioritized pages so that we could finesse prototypes before the site was complete. We tested prototypes widely, among both buyers and artists, to align the technical build with user expectations, aesthetic considerations, and business needs.
"This project was the first to marry Google’s Angular.JS framework on the front end with the Oracle ATG multisite e-commerce platform."
Through a first-of-its-kind integration of new technologies, we made the site more like a tablet app that transitions seamlessly from state to state, moving beyond standard web page paradigms while providing all the features and functions that users have come to expect from e-commerce. This project was the first to marry Google’s Angular.JS framework on the front end with the Oracle ATG multisite e-commerce platform on the back end.
Because most artwork has an inventory of one, the checkout process also posed particular challenges. We took many features and use cases into account, and made ATG and Angular work together to enable seamless, intuitive shopping cart interactions. The complexity of the experience required Huge to extend RH’s existing e-commerce ATG/BCC platform, and create custom solutions so that the RH Contemporary Art site would not compromise the functionality of other Restoration Hardware digital properties. The system runs on the Oracle 11g database, RedHat’s JBoss application server, and the Apache web server. Adobe’s Scene7 drives real-time image manipulation and compositing.
The site went live concurrently with the official launch of RH Contemporary Art in the brand’s first physical gallery in Chelsea, New York City.