Nothing says modern web tech technology like making print shopping catalogs available online – or at least that’s what Microsoft and shopping search engine TheFind must have been thinking. The two companies unveiled a new project called Glimpse Catalogs today that makes extensive use of HTML5 and other modern web technologies to combine TheFind’s Catalogue app for tablets and its Glimpse social shopping app for Facebook into one Pinterest-like site that lets you browse through all your favorite Brooks Brothers, Williams-Sonoma and Lands’ End catalogs.
Update (7/27): Microsoft and TheFind have been working to improve the picture quality over the last few days and the algorithm used by Glimpse Catalogs now dials the image quality up or down depending on your network connection.
According to Microsoft, the goal of this collaboration was to “create something that would leverage the immense reach of the web without compromising the beauty, richness and performance of an app.”
Somewhere in that process, however, something got lost. While the page flipping animations look nice and show off the power of what developers can do with HTML5, the actual images of the pages are overly compressed to the point where text becomes completely unreadable.
The focus here is obviously not on reading and the actual shopping experience is well executed. If this is Microsoft’s and TheFind’s idea of the future of shopping, however, I hope they can find a way to make things a bit less blurry. This is, after all, supposed to be a project that shows off “the beauty of the web.” I’m also not sure why the default detail view for every item doesn’t go to the item’s description instead of a Facebook like button.
One cool aspect of this project, though, is that Microsoft is giving away the HTML5 framework it used to create these online catalogs. The project was developed using turn.js, a jQuery plugin for page flipping. The code is now available on Github.