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The Hipster Vintage Website Movement

  |  July 19, 2012   |  Comments   |  

Is the Hipster Vintage Website effective? To guide this discussion, I've come up with a list.

Two things about me that you should know before you read this:

1) I spend an inordinate amount of time online, thinking about how other people spend time online. 2) I spend an inordinate amount some of my spare time trying to understand hipster culture.

And at the intersection of these two mind-consuming paradigms, I stumbled upon an emerging trend: there are websites, designed to look so old that you know they're capable of delivering a more modern look if they wanted to do so.

But yet they don't, and are therefore noticed for being ironic and interesting. If you're unfamiliar with this phenomena, it's the classic hipster way.

I call this the Hipster Vintage Website Movement.

Is the Hipster Vintage Website effective? Or is it despicable to all those that come across it? What does it look like? How will we know when we've come across one of these HVWs? And should you seriously consider making one to make a big ironic splash of your own?

To guide this discussion, I've come up with a list.

Those That Did Not Make the List

To be clear, I'm not talking about retro-styled fixings applied to a modern template of very acceptable technology and usability, like this:


No, that work is too solid. And therefore, not ironic enough to make my list.

Also, I'm not talking about sites that are so tragically old that they really don't know any better. Sometimes, you simply don't have the resources. If the one time you decided to build your website happened to be back in 1996, I won't hold it against you, Candy & Romeo:

But then there are the borderline cases, like this:


The Web King almost had me. He's been treating his customers royally since 1996. This man knows what he's doing and he consistently ranks in the top 20 of the worst website designs each year. Our hatred for his site design is probably his no. 1 source of traffic. Very hipster!

But Mr. King, you did not make my list. You simply cannot charge customers $99 to build a website, with your own website looking like a castle wall. That is misleading. If you were in any other line of business, like saving puppies or celebrating dog weddings, you'd easily sit on the throne of Hipster Vintage Websites.

Honorary Hipster Points: Shared 3,853 times on Facebook (http://graph.facebook.com/http://webking.com/)

Those That Made the List

So which sites made the final cut? Remember, we're looking for sites that leave the unknowing visitor in shock and awe, and filled with hipster jealousy. We know that they could probably put forward something more modern and functional, but they don't. Yet we're still intrigued. And they know that, too.

No. 3 - Chiptune.com


Ladies and gentlemen, I just saw a floppy disk on the loading screen. This tickles my vintage fancy. If you're not digging the 8-bit graphics as the next hot thing in design, then you need to move onto something more mainstream. Like Windows ‘95.

I actually don't fully understand what this site is supposed to do for me. But I can't stop... clicking things. Go ahead. Give it a try. (If you stop reading right at this point, I'll understand why you left. And where you went.)

Hipster Points: Shared 2,237 times on Facebook (http://graph.facebook.com/http://www.chiptune.com/)

No. 2 - George R.R. Martin (of "Game of Thrones")


Oh my, where to begin. Try rolling over one of the sigils (translation: banners with symbols). Yes, that's right. They spin. And we, "Game of Thrones" fan boys and fan girls, love it.

How does the author of the most downloaded show on television have a website that looks as dated as this one? Maybe he doesn't care now that he's rich and famous. The third book in the series was written in 2000, which aligns with when I think this site was created. All I have to go on is the start date on the visitor counter: 12/4/2000.

Yet, the site was last updated on June 20, 2012. Mr. Martin definitely knows his mystical powers extend far beyond Westeros.

Hipster Points: Shared 4,624 times on Facebook (http://graph.facebook.com/http://georgerrmartin.com/)

No. 1 - Maison Martin Margiela


OK, in all honesty, Maison Martin Margiela's (MMM) site is not as overtly hipster vintage as the others on this list. In fact, it's a bit like Modernista's "siteless site" from 2008, which was very well received at the time. This site is not great, and it's by no means terrible.

But this is still the culmination of my entire argument due to the context of the situation.

  • Because MMM is haute couture.
  • Because MMM is a global brand.
  • Because MMM launched this new look site just last month. No legacy excuses.

This is exactly the type of brand that you or I could be tasked with growing.

So it is a big deal, because the risks are quite real.

MMM took the risk of presenting us with a pile of pop-ups. It knows that it's not the most user-friendly setup, nor the most aesthetic design. But it is retro. And it is ironic. And as we've learned, this can be interesting.

Hipster Points: Shared 3,078 times on Facebook (and counting) (http://graph.facebook.com/http://www.maisonmartinmargiela.com/)

For now, MMM is deck.


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Brandon Cheung

As regional digital strategy director at Tribal DDB Asia Pacific, Brandon is an integral part of the development and execution of Radar, Tribal DDB's regional social media offering. He also provides digital leadership for the agency's clients. Brandon was previously (group) strategic planning director at Isobar and Carat Hong Kong, where he led digital and social media development for a range of clients, such as Chivas Regal, Swire Properties, Tiffany & Co., Nokia, and Adidas. He also developed Astro, a proprietary social media customer relationship management (CRM) system. Brandon has eight years of experience in digital marketing strategy, having worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. He loves the Internet and thinks we don't say it enough. Show him some love on Twitter: @brcheung.

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