When we create a website, most of us want to make it look good. We may buy the best templates or hire a web designer to make the site visually appealing to future readers. In fact, we may even not hold back our spending in the design department.
But can an ugly website actually be successful? Granted the aesthetic appeal of a website is subjective and many people will have differing opinions on whether a website design is beautiful or ugly. There are some designs that are minimalistic instead of ugly and Google is one that comes to mind. But there are some factors that give rise to what people may agree as ugly, such as bad color combinations, irregular fonts and misaligned columns, to name a few. Here, we look at a couple of wildly successful websites that are almost universally looked upon as loathsome:
Started way back in the 90s, you couldn’t tell the difference today. The design of Craigslist look like it hasn’t been changed for the last 15 years or so. With small fonts and its text only design with a white and grey background, it looks like what a 10-year old child with minimal HTML skills could design. But it is the largest classified site in the world. Its user base in July 2011 is estimated at 66 million and page views is estimated at 24 billion.
Alexa Global Rank for Craigslist.org: 43
Alexa US Rank for Craigslist.org: 8
PlentyofFish.com is an online dating site started in 2004. With its odd color combination and lack of any real visual appeal, it is considered ugly by today’s standards. In fact, its design has not changed since its inception 8 years ago. But today, it garners an estimated 3 billion page views per month, which is large by any global standard.
Alexa Global Rank for PlentyofFish.com: 281
Alexa US Rank for PlentyofFish.com: 75
Any article on websites with uncomely designs wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential Drudge Report. It is the epitome of a highly successful site with the absolute raw basics of HTML. It currently gets an estimated 250 million hits per month and is considered one of the highest trafficked news site online, all this run by single person with only links on its homepage leading to other news sites and less than 120 webpages indexed by Google at any one time (site: search in Google).
Alexa Global Rank for DrudgeReport.com: 457
Alexa US Rank for DrudgeReport.com: 95
Why Are These Sites So Successful?
So, why are these sites so successful? Many people will jump to the conclusion that design doesn’t matter and does not inhibit a website’s success. However, there are several similarities in these sites. Firstly, they are all older sites that entered the virtual realm at the start of the internet. Thus, they have gotten a large user base before the explosion of sites on the internet and have gotten a head start.
Another argument is that content and functionality trumps design. What this means is that the content or usefulness of the site draws people more than a visually appealing but less functional one would. What do you guys think? Would love to read your comments below.