It’s a long time since I have heard this phrase mentioned. Not since before the “Dot Com Bubble” burst were terms like this banded about and in the interim it has become passé. It is almost as if the phrase alone was reflective of the shameful excesses of the late nineties.
But behold, the times they are changing, or maybe just revolving. Today’s web users are much more comfortable with playful interfaces and the profusion of broadband negates the old [lack of] bandwidth disappointments. Yes, there is a time and place for everything: If I know what I am after then I should be able to find it ASAP. However, if I am in a more explorative mood then an intuitive experience that allows me to discover products in a fun way can be very engaging.
A project of mine that recently went live for our client Euroffice is based around the concept of a Virtual Office. It was designed to promote their huge range of products [30k+], which may otherwise be overlooked. Initial user testing has been very positive, with some participants actually preferring the experience to more traditional navigation options.
I think that there is a place for experiences similar to this to exist alongside guided/faceted navigation systems and traditional menus. Ecommerce experiences should start to respect customers choices and allow them to engage with brands and products in ways that are reflective of their mood.