Uniqlo vs Forever21—Fashion Web Layout Comparison

Posted on September 28, 2010 by


For my first post, I decided to do a comparison between Japanese and American design. I tried to look for a magazine ad, but holy crap, it’s hard finding two ads of different countries that I could critique in a fair manner. So instead, I chose website layouts of two very popular and international clothing brands.

Representing Japan is Uniqlo. Representing America is Forever 21.

(Side note: I do realize that Forever21 was originally Korean-fashion oriented clothing store, but it is still an American chain.)

Uniqlo Men’s Jeans Styling Guide

Forever21 Men’s Shop These Looks

I’m just going to blatantly say which one I like better from the start. I prefer the Uniqlo site.

Both brands are known for their very affordable clothing. However, the difference is that Uniqlo is known for practicality and versatility. Forever21 is more trendy and modern. Not to say that Uniqlo isn’t trendy, nor Forever21 not being practical. Anyway, they both have stores around the world and they are both one of the biggest clothing brands in their own respective countries, so that is why I chose these two.

Now, as for the critique.

First thing I noticed about the Uniqlo site is that it’s ridiculously long. There’s a lot of scrolling that has to happen. Though the whole page is dedicated to denim pairing styles, I think it should’ve been separated into more pages by the jeans cut or the style. Because honestly, scrolling so much is really annoying and it’d be easier to have multiple pages open simultaneously to look at the different styles rather than having to search and scroll.

Second thing was consistency and organization. It’s all within a grid system and so, even with a lot of content, it’s not confusing because it’s all within their own section. I especially like the main model photo of the complete style and then having smaller sections on the right to show the products that are being paired with the jeans. It’s not busy, but it’s not empty either. A fair amount of graphics and type to make it clean and interesting.

The type is a little hard to read since kanji characters have so many strokes so at smaller sizes, it’s a challenge. But that’s a struggle that all Japanese sites have. And I absolutely love the simplicity of the UJ logo. Ahhhh, I don’t really like minimal design, but it’s oh so simple and lovely.

The first thing I noticed with Forever21 was that it’s rather condensed in terms of size. This makes it easier to scroll and see the whole content, but it also makes everything smaller and harder to see. If I’m buying clothes from the site, I want to be able to investigate its looks down to its fine details. But this page doesn’t allow that.

Second thing was that there are more variations. The models aren’t all the same size. The style gallery is more interactive as the pictures slide across as you cycle through the styles. However, the inconsistency in the columns with the selected look, then the clothing components of that look, and the selected clothing component with description and price is really bothersome. Especially all that blank space under the item photo and description. Why not just use a big photo that fills in that width with the description under it? I also don’t like how the first two columns are bordered and the third one isn’t.

Not much to say about the type. Easy to read, uses a light typeface that seems to be the trend, and straightforward. But that’s pretty much it. Nothing amazing. Looks like a student can make this.

I like that Uniqlo doesn’t include the item description on the style guide page. I don’t really need to know all the specs of the item if I’m not even interested in that overall style. The top navigation bar of the Forever21 site is disorganized in general. It’s not aligned in any particular way and doesn’t correlate with the rest of the site. The navigation bar for Uniqlo is on the left column and it’s really long, just like the rest of the site. Maybe leave the subsections uncollapsed so that it can be more condensed, but then again, it is more useful in quickly finding exactly what you’re looking for no matter what part of the site you’re browsing. The element of contrast is much more interesting with Uniqlo because of the white and black with the hints of bright red. It really pops and catches the eyes. Forever21 is pretty bland and there isn’t really anything that grabs my attention. Uniqlo’s site matches well with their clothings, being very practical and bold and their website even reminds me of their actual stores. However, Forever21’s site doesn’t really look trendy nor stylish like their clothing and makes me not want to bother with their online shopping.

Now I’m starting to think it wasn’t really a fair comparison because Uniqlo just looks more appealing and professional. Forever21 looks dull and the layout is messy. But considering their fame and success, they should be on the same level. Maybe Forever21 should look into redoing their website. Anyway, both their products are well made and looks good, but online presentation are definitely on different levels of quality.