We've all seen them. Some sites look like they have been thrown together by a neophyte renting web time at an Internet café in Calcutta. But in reality, a visually unappealing website may have been created by a sophisticated online publisher. In fact, some tech gurus argue that ugly sites actually make more money than sites that have been designed to be visual marvels.
But can that really be true? Yes . . . and no. The answer has a lot to do with how you define the word, "ugly". For some people, a site 100% text driven site is the ugliest thing they have ever seen. For others, a site dominated by graphics, flowery imaging, and background music is the epitome of poor taste. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from "ugly" sites.
Ultimately, the issue comes down to a debate between function and aesthetics. To be profitable, your site needs to strike a delicate balance between visual appeal and user functionality, with functionality receiving a slightly higher priority than appearance. With that in mind, here are some of the lessons that can be learned from seemingly ugly websites.
- Function is king. The overriding theme in web publishing architecture is that function is king. If your site's aesthetics detract from its primary function (i.e. revenue generation), then you have missed the boat. Beginners spend a disproportionate amount of time on visual appearance to the detriment of the site's functionality.
- Plain text can highlight ads. Sometimes, a plain text approach can be used to draw the viewer's attention to site ads. Think about it . . . Although a site dominated by fascinating images and graphics can be fun, the net effect is that the site's ads are obscured. If it's difficult for users to see your ads, revenues will plunge and your web venture is rapidly heading toward its demise.
- Navigation is critical. Complicated site architecture can make it difficult for users to navigate your site. Your goal is to make it easy for users to find the information they're looking for as quickly as possible. By simplifying your site's appearance, you can streamline navigation and create pipelines to the site's interior pages.
- Image saturation intimidates users. In web publishing, your personal preferences have to take a back seat to your audience. And the simple truth is that image-saturated sites can be intimidating for some users, especially users who represent an older demographic.
- Simplicity trumps features (usually). More often than not, simple architecture is better than feature-rich architecture. Users appreciate features; but they love sites that give them convenience and quick access to the information they need.