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The successful "ugly" website

Designing for some target might involve some design non functional designs

     
4:58 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hope this is the right category for this.

Greetings webmasters. Almost two years ago there was a discussion here about the ugly sites that break the rules but somehow are successful with traffic (not so content related). Might seem obvious but after specialization we might overlook the task of doing good looking website, and the target for that website would call "pretty" some nasty color combination and big buttons we've been told (or learn) to avoid.

So, there it comes the "ugly website experiment". I have some domains available and I'm considering building a website "for non exigent people". The thing is, I have a neat web and another domain alike, I will try to build the competition on the other domain trying to mimic what I wouldn't mimic, but its proving to work. (no content related, only design. Of course I won't duplicate content)

Anyone with some experience doing "ugly websites"?

5:03 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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People tolerate ugly websites if the content is good or related to what they are searching for. Also, most ugly websites load faster due to their lack of design elements.
6:09 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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my ugly one page website gets loads of hits from people trying to work out where the mailing list is. the domain only hosts a mailing list and the front page tells them to go somewhere else.
9:13 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It might help if we defined "ugly". Lots of unnecessary Flash and other cr@p requiring plug-ins, tiny pale fonts on a barely-darker background, forty-twelve ad blocks, etc, are what I tend to think of as "ugly". But these are often "state of the art", or so it seems.

My site, on the other hand, is extremely plain, black text on a white background, simple text-link navigation, a non-graphical "search" utility, no Flash or similar stuff, and minimal graphics. In other words, I'm fairly certain I'm doing just about everything "wrong", "ugly", and embarassingly out-of-date. But--

My site gets the job done. And users frequently comment that the straight-forward practicality, without all the cutesy "fluff" and trendy extras, is a big part of what they like about my "ugly" site.

Eliz.

9:35 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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My site gets the job done. And users frequently comment that the straight-forward practicality, without all the cutesy "fluff" and trendy extras, is a big part of what they like about my "ugly" site.

Same boat here, stapel. My widgets are purchased primarily by home-owners -- generally an older crowd, to the point that many are not extremely computer literate. In fact, my listed demographic breakdown is an older (45+), affluent, female (from Quantcast and Alexa both)...not bad if you consider its a home improvement type site. Not typically a crowd I should think would be interested in sound bytes from cartoon shows, flash media, heavy graphic interface, or complicated navigation functions.

I've found that the more basic I make my site, the better my conversion rate! My user comments often include the phrase "easily found what I needed" even though I have about 8,000 active SKUs. I'm not gonna win any design awards or impress anyone on this board...but I sell a lot of merchandise:o)

10:41 pm on Oct 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

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not gonna win any design awards or impress anyone on this board...but I sell a lot

If you can impress your banker that is by far the most fun!

1:22 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you can impress your banker that is by far the most fun!

My banker, not so much. My boss' banker is another story, though :o(

8:21 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think the posts so far have demonstrated two ideas which I take as "fundamental rules:"

1. The beauty of a web site is it's ability to solve problems. Doesn't matter whether that problem is researching a school project you should have started weeks ago or buying a widget that you need - if it does it more efficiently than a "pretty" web site, you have the sale and the user thinks you're beautiful.

2. Beauty and ugly, in terms of physical appearance, are not definable. These attributes are specific to individuals. One's holy grail is another's pit of hell. When I read stapel's example, everything she mentions as "ugly" really falls under point #1 - usability and accessibility issues above and beyond physical presentation.

If you let form follow function, your site will always be "beautiful" in spite of those who would like to call it "ugly." "Tell me, will your color scheme sell more widgets for me?" Didn't think so. :-)

8:20 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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exactly what I was thinking rocknbil
11:51 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm a proud believer in ugly websites, but they have to satisfy several criteria to succeed, in my view:

1. It has to be niche - every site gets compared to others; a non-discerning audience will not 'get it'.

2. You have to actually believe that 'Content is King' - because content is all you got!

3. StoutFiles' point; it has to be plain vanilla and quickloading - a site that's flash-heavy-ugly, design-heavy-ugly or gimmick-heavy-ugly will lose the audience before they fall in love.

And there may be other points I've not consciously considered.

I suspect we're talking more 'no frills' than necessarily 'ugly'; but a no frills site in a niche, that does what it says on the packet, can succeed - easily - ugly or not.

If, as rocknbil says, it solves their problems, then the returning, bookmarking, linking visitors will see it as a swan, even if it is an ugly duckling. :)

12:16 am on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Depends on what you are selling, for example if you made a site with terrible navigation, people would click the nearest ad link to leave. ;~) That happened to me by accident a couple of years ago, I'd put in a new nav bar about 2am and didn't check to see if it was functioning properly till about two days later. The click rate for that page was three times what the others were because clicking an ad was about the only way to get off the page ;~)

Lovejoy

8:19 am on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I think you may be confusing an ugly site and a sloppy site.

There's nothing good to say about a sloppy site!

1:21 am on Oct 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you want to do branding don't use an ugly website.