I was reading a post on WebsitePublisher.net’s webmaster forums today and I came across a thread about successful ugly sites. If you’ve read about PlentyofFish, you may have figured out that perhaps a pretty design won’t take your website as far as you hoped. Why is that? Here is an abbreivated post that I made to the thread on WebsitePublisher.net.

Compared to Yahoo, MSN, or even Ask, Google is damn ugly. Has that had any negative affect on Google? Possibly, but its so small that the pros far outwiegh the cons. Before I was doing this I planned on being an artist. In the beginning it was all about detail and realism to me. As I got older I realized how critical layout and eye movement was.

The problem with websites is that most web designers don’t really understand this. May be they took a graphic design class and the teacher went over it, but they haven’t mastered it. And if they have, they are focusing too much on the sites design rather than the content. Despite what web designers think, people don’t visit web site to look at the design unless the site itself is about design.

Instead, web designers add all kinds of elements that kill navigatability (yes I think I just made that word up), conversion rates, and click throughs. I think this problem is exacerbated by the ease of use of all of these web design and graphics programs. I’m not saying there is anything bad with it, but just because someone can make gradients doesn’t mean they understand the core concepts of design.

What happens when someone who can’t use Photoshop, Frontpage, or Dreamweaver puts together a webpage? It just looks plain. The useless elements that distract are left out, and the core function of the site shines through.

On the other hand, there are plenty of ugly sites that don’t work too. However, every time I’ve seen someone say — hey this site is ugly, why is it so successful? — I’ve looked at the design and its actually laid out very well, even if it isn’t pretty.

In the following weeks I am going to try to put together some posts showing how you can design your site to not only function better, but still look “pretty.”

4 thoughts on “Why do ugly sites work so well?

  1. Pingback: Priit´s Blog » Little usability comparison table: Kiire.ee vs. Kuldne Bors

  2. I don’t think being ugly helps a site. However it also doesn’t hurt a site if that site has good quality content and is easy to use.

    So its not that ugly is better, its just that design is rather unimportant.

    There are sites out there that haven’t gotten an updated design in 5+ years or more. These sites aren’t successful because they’re ugly, they’re successful because they’ve been around 5+ years.

  3. The thing about Google, and I’m talking about the homepage here, is not that it is ugly but it’s just very very simple and very very effective. Successful websites seem to be the ones that give the user what they want without any fuss.

  4. Google is designed by designers to. Graphic design is not about pretty things, it’s about communication and ease of use. Designers main ability is to make order in chaos. It’s very insulting for me as a designer to read such ignorant opinions about design and designers.

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