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Bradford Shellhammer

When the flash-sale site Fab launched last summer, featured retailers scored about $10,000 in sales--a miracle in an uneasy economy. Then the site blew up: Now sellers can net $100,000, and the site itself raised $50 million in venture funding. Bradford Shellhammer attributes the success to simple principles:

1. Relax control of visuals.

Shellhammer almost always uses vendors' product shots, which guarantees more diversity (and lower costs) than if everything were reshot in a studio. "The person who designed a product is also the best person to present it," he says.

2. Tap into emotions.

Sure, you can find some cool, kitschy objects on eBay. But Fab pairs each item with the story behind it, making shoppers feel supportive of the seller. "People invest more in things they form emotional attachments to," he says.

3. Re-create the real world.

Fab's real-time feed shows what items other users are buying, mimicking the effect of watching shoppers at a store. "Most people need reinforcement from others before purchase," he says, "so it helps when you can see what's moving."

4. Don't distract users from the product.

Fab's site is built with purposefully clean grid lines and a simple, three-color palette. "Eva Zeisel said good design is about getting out of the way," Shellhammer says. "That has been the driving force in our own design."