Potential for design from on-line shopping boom

The explosion in on-line shopping and related services in the US, identified in a new report, is filtering through to the UK and creating new media work, say industry experts.

The number of US households using on-line shopping services is expected to grow from around 200 000 to between 15 and 20 million by 2007, according to the report from management consultant Andersen Consulting.

“In the UK we are behind the US, but the on-line sector is definitely taking off. It is currently confined to various niche markets, but it is spreading,” says Justine Elliott, interactive shopping specialist at Arthur Andersen.

European research group Datamonitor backs Elliott’s claims. This puts the number of west European households on-line at the end of 1997 at 6.78 million, with the figure set to grow to 11.2 million by the end of 1998 and to 17.8 million by the end of 1999. The UK has the second highest number of households on-line, after Germany.

These findings come at a time of uncertainty in website production. Webmedia’s website production subsidiary has just gone into liquidation, and Webmedia chairman Steve Bowbrick predicts that the sector will see many more casualties (DW 16 January).

But Nucleus Design managing director Peter Matthews says the effects of an explosion in on-line users are starting to filter through, creating work for shopping sites and related services.

Nucleus, Online Magic and Amaze have all seen a recent increase in shopping site work.

“On-line transactions are much more technical than standard Web design because it’s not static – it’s personalised and always changing. There’s a lot of information to process and it has to be laid out very clearly,” Matthews adds.

Clive Vaughan, consultant to retail research group Verdict, says designers should keep the Internet “explosion” in perspective. “I will be amazed if it accounts for 5 per cent of shopping in ten years’ time in the UK,” he says.

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