Since the Apple II hit the market in 1977, Apple has sold one thing — design. They've done that through injecting design into computers, phones, software, PDAs, PMPs, servers, peripherals and operating systems. There are other companies with similarly rangy product lines just as there are other companies with excellent design.


So how does the design company approach its own design on the web?


First and foremost, Apple brings their unparalleled design aesthetic. That should be no surprise, since it is their chief product and has proven the foundation for the growth of their consumer electronics empire. They stay true to form, and buck a few normative user experience details present on nearly every other major site on the Internet.


Apple's name is hidden until you scroll all the way down to the footer. Their text-less logo is a part of the top navigation, but none of the other corporate giants I checked were so brand-confident to omit the prominent above-the-fold inclusion of their name in conjunction with their text-less logos. Without using a splash page, they also manage to have a home page free of the weight of substantive content. A huge ad, a few smaller ads and some links are their only initial content offerings - a far cry from any other online retailer that approaches their sale volume ($24b in 2007).


The other prominent feature of Apple's website is their attempt to co-opt the color white. Aside from the colors on their products, the site is white, the navigational element cover a range of grays and the text stays in the grey territory with the exception of a pleasant blue (#0088CC) link color, and various international flags in their footer, they offer a completely color-neutral framework.


Of course, Apple's site is not perfect. Leave their home page and you may find yourself lost in a link labyrinth, crowded with box after box of product. But those sins are magnified by the spartan joy of their home page (consistent with their physical products and store). A quick search on "history" leads to no results in their handy insta-results, onfocus search results — it's an odd omission for such a large and storied company to omit any reference to their own history, but that's what we have wikipedia for, I suppose.


As with any well executed product, Apple has plenty of room for criticism in the design options they didn't take. Does their approach leaves sales on the table with it's often airy design? Maybe, but is about one thing and one thing only—selling design—and on that merit, they hit the mark.