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The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites 468

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the make-them-stop dept.
nywanna writes "After seeing the example of Plenty of Fish and the reports of the site earning over $10,000/day in Adsense revenues, I quickly realized that there are a lot of ugly websites that are extremely successful. The reason for this, according to the article, is that ugly websites do a few things that beautiful websites tend to lack."
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The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites

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  • slashdot (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:20PM (#14957829)
    Maybe that's why slashdot is so successful?
  • by Azarael (896715) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:20PM (#14957835) Homepage
    Just look at the website for the article:
    Could not connect: User root has already more than 'max_user_connections' active connections
    • ...wait 'till you see what happens when someone figures out how to exploit that little bit of account information ;)
    • by moochfish (822730) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:00PM (#14958244)
      Slashdot beat it with an ugly stick.
    • You got lucky (Score:5, Insightful)

      by munch117 (214551) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:02PM (#14958260)
      I got the full article, and trust me, that was even worse. I had to switch off all colour and font sizes before it was bearable to read.

      And then there's the content. Like when he accuses IMDB of having "not even bothered" to change the browser-default font.

      In other news, nobody has yet bothered to hit me over the head with a pickaxe. I kinda appreciate that, just like I appreciate that imdb.com doesn't try to override the font that I have carefully selected and configured to be my browsers default.

      Perhaps the reason why all these supposedly ugly websites are successful, is that the author has a messed up idea of "ugly".
      • Re:You got lucky (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pneuma ROCKS (906002) on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:07PM (#14959299) Homepage

        And it wasn't such a good article, anyway. The author seems to assume that an attractive website has to be elaborate or complex. The main conclusion is that the success of the size depends highly on simplicity and delivering the right message. I may not be a professional webmaster, but simplicity is one of my primary aims when I design a website, and I believe that beauty lies in simplicity.

        On the other hand, there are sites that are simple and ugly. This one is a perfect example indeed. But that's an inevitable side effect of having endless threaded discussions of variable lengths. I think the site delivers, and you eventually forget about the design and focus on what the next Soviet Russia joke should be. That's good design in my book.

    • The Slashdot Effect(tm) - Bringin the Ugly out of Your Website since 1997.
  • ICQ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MacBoy (30701) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:20PM (#14957837)
    The old ICQ website still tops my ugly list. It had multiple columns and went on forever. Info overload.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Donniedarkness (895066) <Donniedarkness@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#14957859) Homepage
    Maybe it has something to do with the actual content of the website?

    I'm sure that an ugly porn site would probably bring in more money than a pretty site about overpriced potato chips that you can ship from Pakistan.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:35PM (#14958005) Homepage
      I really think you're underestimating the drawing power of Pakistani potato chips. I mean, I knew a guy who got $50 million in VC funding in 1998 for a website with nothing on it but a dancing package of Pakistani potato chips.
    • by kfg (145172) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:53PM (#14958191)
      And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      A brownstone building is plain, but beautiful. Glueing an Italiante facade to it because those "architectural elements" have come into fasion does not make the building more beautiful, it makes it false and decadent, simply justifying Santayana's claim that "Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit."

      Adding commercial "art" to a website to make it "beautiful" simply does the same; and I'll take Shaker furniture over baroque, thank you very much.

      It has come to my attention that James Kunstler's blog (Clusterfuck Nation) has been attacked for looking "unprofessional," which rather took me aback, as I considered it one of the few truely professional looking sites left on the web. It's more than plain text, but it is simple and elegant. It gets the job done and does it in way that is graphically pleasing to the eye without being loaded up with fashionable crap. It looks professional. What it doesn't look like is commercial and pandering to whatever happens to be in vogue in commercial psuedo art on order to sell something.

      YTMV, of course, but isn't that rather the point?

      KFG
      • by hey! (33014) on Monday March 20, 2006 @03:24PM (#14958948) Homepage Journal
        A brownstone building is plain, but beautiful. Glueing an Italiante facade to it because those "architectural elements" have come into fasion does not make the building more beautiful, it makes it false and decadent,

        I agree that plain and functional can be beautiful. But so can ornamented. As counterexamples, consider the Tower of Pisa, or Notre Dame Cathedral. Which building is "better" -- the Empire State or the Chrysler?

        I think the real lesson is that when your vision is screwed, trying harder doesn't help. Unless you know what you're doing, less is more.
        • consider the Tower of Pisa . . .

          A very simple arrangement of functional repeated elements, although each element is ornamented, with a degree of taste.

          . . .or Notre Dame Cathedral. . .

          Gothic means "ugly." Ironically the term was coined by the baroque.

          Which building is "better" -- the Empire State or the Chrysler?

          A Cape Cod Salt Box.

          Unless you know what you're doing, less is more.

          Conversely, if you really know what you're doing less is the most. Scandinavian Modern is simple and elegant, it is also cold and
    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      Maybe it has something to do with the actual content of the website?

      Maybe.

      I think the big problem with TFA is that it's overselling it's case. The PlentyOfFish web site is not going to win any awards for it's beauty, but it isn't really ugly. What is good about the site is that it has a business model that requires low commitment from users (no credit cards or fees) has a clear function for which users will seek it out, and places that function right smack in front of your face the first time you bring i
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#14957860)
    "I quickly realized that there are a lot of ugly websites that are extremely successful"

    Example #1: Slashdot itself.

    • by thepotoo (829391) <thepotoospam@@@yahoo...com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:00PM (#14958248)
      I don't understand why people don't like the look of slashdot. I've been visiting this site for several years and I'm not sick of the layout.
      It works.The design is simple, fast (most of the time), and works in any browser.

      Often, I hear people say OMG DIGG IS TEH PRETTIER: I'd rather have a site which is fast and easy to navigate than a site which is all eye candy and takes an hour to load.

      just my 2 cents.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#14957867) Homepage
    Flipping through the various examples in The Zen of CSS Design [amazon.com] , for example, I am amazed by how gorgeous some of the effects are, but I know that I'd be quickly worn out if I had to use any of these on a regular basis. Sometimes simple design, even to the point of blocky quasi-socialist-realist functionality, works better even if it doesn't win awards for looks.
    • I absolutely agree. The point of the example, I believe, isn't that it's minimalistic. It's downright ugly.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:37PM (#14958036)
      I looked at the "Plenty of Fish" site and it did not look ugly to me.

      It looked clean and functional. It certainly wasn't "pretty", but it was far from "ugly".
      Sometimes simple design, even to the point of blocky quasi-socialist-realist functionality, works better even if it doesn't win awards for looks.
      Form follows function. If there isn't any requirement for cute effects, then why add them?
    • It's about USABILITY (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:47PM (#14958139)
      The simple fact is, people don't care for fancy graphics. That's nice to look at, but it won't make you come back day after day. What people want is meaningful content, that's easily accessible. People want the semantic web, and RSS feeds from sites all over the net, in a simple browser, not animations that take ages to wade through, and must be waded through differently on each site. Plenty of Fish is a good example of that, but OK Cupid is a better one, and the popularity figures will show the difference.
      • by dal20402 (895630) *
        Usability = content + design.

        Every so often I'll think to myself "Wouldn't I just really rather read the unadorned RSS feeds for my favorite sites?" But I always end up going back to old-fashioned browsing.

        The best sites use design to aggregate information in such a way that it's easy to see what the site judges to be most important, so that the user can see plenty of information at once, and so the pages load quickly. Just saying "screw design, it's about content" is too simple.

        It seems to me that, b

    • by saltydogdesign (811417) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:11PM (#14958336)
      Point of fact, simple != ugly, and beautiful != complex. You, and the O.P. are creating false dichotomies. If conveying information is the most important feature of a website, the best design would be the design you don't even notice.
  • So? (Score:5, Funny)

    by NoseBag (243097) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:23PM (#14957873)
    ugly websites do a few things that beautiful websites tend to (not do).

    Ugly women often have the same virtue.
  • I generally do not visit many nice looking sites because there is too much garbage on them and they are slow to load. Dont even get me going on sites with a big 800x600 flash movie on the home page...
  • Ugly, or Simple? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:25PM (#14957892) Homepage Journal

    Put the snob in the backseat for a moment and consider there's a difference between Ugly and Simple. Back in the early days there was a site [webpagesthatsuck.com] where I learned the fundamental difference between Form and Function, the bottom line is, as it always has been, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    My designs tend to have a very small footprint and require minimal bandwidth. While I was building light weight search engines, the clod who over-saw our website put a massive graphic on the home page. Those, like myself, still on 2400 baud modems at the time had to sit and wait for that The Bob damn thing to load.

    Years later I was working with United Airlines Air Cargo and some brain at the top elected to replace a very simple, not pretty, but very simple interface with javascripts galore, whizzy graphics and image mapping, all in a kind of Black on Black, which would have Hotblack Desiato break out in a sweat, dead or not. It didn't work and they'd spent big on it.

    This isn't really an ugly site. On the other hand /. ... hmm.

  • Maddox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:25PM (#14957895) Homepage
    One good example not mentioned: Maddox's The Best Page in the Universe [slashdot.org] prides itself on a very simple design and he gets a gillion hits. Not to mention he only uses a subdomain of his ISP.
  • Working on site (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nywanna (960908)
    Sorry for the site going down - working on increasing max connections...
  • Summary (Score:3, Funny)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:26PM (#14957902) Homepage Journal
    When many people come to an ugly page they click somewhere just to get away from it.

    Personally I hit the back button, but I guess that's just me.
  • It's simple, the uglier the web site, the more you will want to LEAVE. Even if it takes an ad-click, it gets the job done and you dont have to look at godawful fonts and horrible color choices any more. Part 3, as always, is *profit*. Brilliant if you ask me.
  • I'm still waiting for the adsense, and thus google stock, crash. It will come. There are so many adsense scraper sites and the fact that every tom dick and harry can throw adsense on a page is not necessarily a good thing. I think google should be doing some quality screening, but I guess adwords advertisers don't really care.
    • There's a lot of quality checks on adsense clicks. You're right that google barely seems to care what pages display their ads. But google is big on checking the quality of click-throughs. Why should they care their ads show on bad sites? As long as the clicks are legal they're making good money on it.
  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:27PM (#14957925)
    I am constantly suprised at the amount of traffic Craig gets with his horrific design. It's cluttered, the colors are lacking, and lacks any personality. It's just a big blob of links.

    But then I remind myself that above all else, it's functional and has enough content to trump any bad design decisions. Content will always trump design. Even bad design.

    -- Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net]
    • by saltydogdesign (811417) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:26PM (#14958460)
      I beg to differ. Craigslist is decidedly *not* horrific design. It is a very simple 5-column layout like you might find on, oh, a newspaper classified page. This is a familiar format to most people. The use of color is very plain and very simple, namely: blue = a link. There's a spot of red for emphasis, and yellow for the same purpose. The meaning of each column and each subcolumn is abundantly clear. There's quite a bit of text on the page, but there are sufficient margins and padding to keep it readible (and the san-serif font helps).

      There's nothing horrific about this design. Actually, it is quite functional -- a fact you appear to be aware of while ignoring the fact that, for the purposes of Craigslist, functionality is what good design is all about. And if you think nobody gave this any serious thought, you are a dolt.

      This gets to the heart of what I find annoying about many Slashdotters: there's a shared opinion here that design is something that is done solely for aesthetic purposes, and that designers are by nature too wrapped up in pretty pictures to do anything worthwhile. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Design is about enhancing the strengths of any material, and while those strengths are often informational, this is not always true. I don't think anyone would argue that Myst would be a better game if the developers had stripped out all the graphics, just as no one would argue that Craigslist would be improved by the addition of a bunch of images.

      Take a look at the world around you some time. If you live in a city, almost everything you come into contact with every day was touched upon at some point by a designer. That's not to say there's no bad design out there, but until you become aware of the designed-ness of your environment, it is far to easy to assume that "bad" is dominant.
  • by EddieBurkett (614927) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:27PM (#14957926)
    Why do I have a feeling that this was all just an ad for plentyoffish.com? I mean, why not get a bunch of undersexed males to visit a page promising free matchmaking with plenty of pictures of cute women? The whole 'story' about ugly websites is really inconsequential. (And plentyoffish isn't all that ugly, IMHO.) I'm starting to get the feeling we've all fallen for this hook, line, and sinker.
  • Here's two examples: (Score:5, Informative)

    by MSBob (307239) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:28PM (#14957936)
    http://www.ebay.com/ [ebay.com]
    http://www.amazon.com/ [amazon.com]

    Butt ugly, horrible backends and still rolling in dough.

    • by sehryan (412731) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:42PM (#14958078)
      Those sites weren't that bad looking when they were first set up mid- to late-90s. The problem is that they are *so* popular, that changing the interface, even slightly, could result in tremendous user backlash.

      Basically, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
      • The expectations change though. If those websites don't improve their appearance, speed and search technology I see a quickly growing google hegemony in the near future.
    • Ebay (Score:4, Insightful)

      by olddotter (638430) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:07PM (#14958304) Homepage
      ebay has got to be the posterchild for "first mover advantage." Not only is the site ugly, but the user interface is one of the worst I have ever seen in my life. Yet they are one of the most sucessful websites ever!!

      There is a whole dot-com economy around making ebay easier to use. See ChannelAdvisor [channeladvisor.com] for example.
  • by keilinw (663210) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:29PM (#14957949) Homepage Journal
    I've seen plenty of "pretty" websites that are absolutely worthless. This only goes to show that aesthetic appeal is NOT the most important factor in website development. Function -- comprising primarily of layout, usability, accessibility, platform, type, etc -- is the CORE of a good website design. Also, don't forget about content!

    It is almost like a pyramid with content and functionality being the foundation for a good website. On top of the pyramid is the "polish" or aesthetic design. I'm sure that we'll all agree that aesthetics and human computer interactions (usability, flow, etc -- the stuff that Apple is notorious for) are also very important.... but, like anything else, it is a blend of form AND functionality. What good is a website if it ONLY works on Opera? What good is a great UI if there is not functionality? You get the point.

    Now what would be quite interesting is to apply these concepts to people! As we all know, looks aren't everything! But hey, that certain polish certainly makes a difference.

    Matthew K. Wong http://www.themindoffmatthew.com [themindofmatthew.com]
  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:30PM (#14957954)
    Man, he doesn't come out and call Google ugly, but he implies it. He doesn't get it. It's really about the simplicity, rather than the aesthetics. Simple websites that provide people a real service *work*.

    I remember working for a major shipping company and the marketers were just discovering the web. People used our website because they wanted to know where there packages were. *Now*. The marketroids were looking at ways to keep people glued to the site longer so they could sell them more services. We had to constantly battle to keep the tracking as simple as possible so that people could get on and get off quickly.
  • I guess the truth is: That if you post an article on your web site to slashdot, your web site will serve up really ugly "Maximum connections exceeded" and "mysql server has gone away." messages!

  • I mostly agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drhamad (868567) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:31PM (#14957966)
    I mostly agree with the article, but I'd rephrase it. This is not about "ugly sells" but rather about "simple sells." Having flashy pages simply distracts from the message. But having nicely formatted text can be nice. eBay or Google may be "ugly," but more accurately they're simple (although I sort of disagree about eBay). Google doesn't load up its page with tons of junk, as does Yahoo... and that's probably why I use Google.

    One thing I really disagree with is the articles talk about trust, how people feel they can trust an ugly website more than a nice one. Here, personally, I think that if somebody can't afford nice webdesign, they can't afford good web security. That being said, this is where my rephrase comes in again - simple and clean design leads me to trust a site more than does flashy sites.

    To be fair, the article does talk about simplicity a lot... I just feel that it points to ugliness instead of simplicity as the driving factor, and that's not quite correct. Simple sites may be ugly, but they don't have to be - and if they're not, simple and clean is better than simple and ugly.
  • MySpace... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:34PM (#14957991) Homepage
    The one site in particular that sticks out in my mind has having particularly bad design is MySpace [myspace.com]. Total information overload, poor organization of content, and horrible horrible backend code (servers are slow as molasses, and my sessions are frequently expired inexplicably).

    I understand that it's a 'community' site, but I honestly don't feel a part of that at all. It's difficult to build a huge online community unless users can selectively segregate themselves into groups. This is part of the reason why Facebook and Flickr are both extremely successful.

    Granted, there are ugly sites with truly great content [aintitcool.com] that balances out the fact that the site's rather ugly. Likewise, there are a host of very pretty sites that are lacking in the content department.

    Although I used to consider myself more of an content guy and the type of guy who uses the command line for most tasks, I find myself gravitating toward sites that although they may not offer as many features, are easier to use, and are visually appealing. Flickr is probably the best example of this. With CSS, there is no excuse to have a poorly designed site. CSS makes it ridiculously easy to propogate an attractive design across your entire site. If you already know basic HTML, you can pick up all the CSS you need to know in a few days. Likewise, CSS also means people can finally stop using Photoshop as a design tool.

    With CSS, formerly ugly sites can make themselves pretty [dansdata.com] with very little effort. Slashdot went to great lengths with their stylesheet to make sure they preserved the old ugly layout.
    • While I hate user anecdotes as much as the next guy, I gotta say, as a former web designer (I still am, but the current hat I wear limits my design in the workplace), the use of CSS does not exclusivise (?, make exclusive) one from the use of Photoshop. Photoshop is an excellent program that the vast majority of web designers use, usually as a precursor to hammering out designs by hand (the web is still primarily a visual medium in terms of what it delivers to end users). Rapid prototyping in a 2D layout is
    • Re:MySpace... (Score:4, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:48PM (#14958157) Homepage
      CSS rocks. Now, if only the most popular but unreliable web browser [microsoft.com] out there supported it!
  • Working for Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jdavidb (449077) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:34PM (#14957997) Homepage Journal

    I think there are some very good points here. I've always valued functionality over form and beauty. (I own ten year old cars, for example.)

    But it's interesting to me that he defines success as making a lot of ad revenue. My websites do not exist to get me revenue. They exist to build communities. Somebody else might have yet another definition of success for his website. I think the general principles raised are true no matter what the purpose of your site is, but I find it interesting that some people don't see a point for their site other than "make a lot of money carrying Google ads." More power to them if they can ... it means they are providing something people want, financing it through advertizing, and making a bundle along the way. It's just not my purpose in having a website.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:36PM (#14958015)
    Its the content.

    Slashdot ain't that pretty, honestly. But what draws people here is the content. PlentyOfFish is a dating service, that is free, and there are lots of people looking for love out there.

    The quality of the website can't be judged by how good or bad it looks. Just like a book cover or people, beauty rarely is the sole reason something is ever successful or popular.

    Some of the best looking websites out there don't get an audience because the content sucks or is irrelevant.

    If you have a website that is making tonnes of money, why bother wasting any of it to glam it up?
  • by javaxman (705658) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:36PM (#14958019) Journal
    I'm sorry... a simple web page does not usually mean an ugly web page.

    What's so ugly about that web page ? The colors are pleasing, the eye flows down the page, the content is easy to navigate. What did you want, a stupid Flash splash screen ?

    My idea of an ugly web page is one with lots of dancing sausage, banner and other ads not only at the top but down the side, a web page where you just don't know what to look at, with an unpredictable mishmash of colors and unrelated content. I like a simple, fast loading web page better than some flash/javascript/rollover-magic animated slow-loading mess. Somehow I'm not shocked that a simple web page often does better than a complex one. The only people shocked to learn simple, organized groupings of information are more popular than some complex ones are graphic designers and such who are too impressed by their own tricks.

    Form fitting function- that's beauty in design.

  • by tehshen (794722) <tehshen@gmail.com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:37PM (#14958030)
    My personal website is all divs and styles, without any images. Any website that strays too far from this is, to me, ugly (and looking at some of the posts, I guess others are of the same opinion), especially if it's linking to ads.

    I know people who are jumping on Bandwagon 2.0 and insisting that all websites should be AJAXified (ugh), and must have flashy graphics and rounded corners, and if you don't do that then your page is all boring and ugly.

    There are also art people who spend all the time making their page look nice and don't actually put their content first. Their page might not be ugly, but it's not usable either.

    Then there are the people who think HTML is ugly and go with Flash. Bastards.

    The point of this long post is that a page may be 'ugly' to you but 'nice' to someone else. To all those people citing Google or Maddox as examples, 'simple' != 'ugly' - you may like it, and it may not be too flashy, but there are plenty of simple and ugly websites out there. (Green text on green background anyone?)

    Not to mention, that the people who spend more time offering services and writing content than caring about the design might actually have more of a clue of what they are doing.


  • http://www.term4sale.com/ [term4sale.com]
    http://www.stockchase.com/ [stockchase.com]
    http://www.americaninsurancebroker.com/ [americanin...broker.com]

    Yup, a blatent attempt at a mini-slashdot effect
  • by MarkByers (770551) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:45PM (#14958123) Homepage Journal
    ...was a breach of Google's AdSense contract?

    PS I have an ugly site. Can I have a front page link too? Thanks!
  • Heh. I knew I kept this spam for a reason. It sort of reeks of "all your base..."

    From: (spammer address snipped)
    To: "" webmaster@ (my address snipped)
    Subject: about your website
    Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2002 19:14:45 +0000


    Do not show ugly website to people! Make cool website.
    Let it start here - www.(snipperoo... no free spammer advertising)

    Website templates are here for your website. Use most
    advanced design concept from the best designers.
    Become the best amoung other websites. Use the
    best

  • But the question remains does it earn $10K before or after being posted on slashdot?
  • What's "ugly"? A simple page that doesn't do slide-overs and onmouseover's? A page that doesn't contain anything but what it's here for (Google, anyone?)? A page that flashes and blinks and causes eye cancer at the first look?

    What matters is the content. People are willing to endure the worst crap on a page as long as they get what they want. Be it that they find their driver, their download link, or be it that they can write their own little piece of nonsense on a page that they know will be read a damn lo
  • Myspace if fugly. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Captain Scurvy (818996) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:57PM (#14958220) Homepage
    *Ahem* Case in point: Myspace. It is one of the most sluggish, kludgy, and ugly websites I have ever seen, but it is also one of the most successful.
  • My lady and I discussed this recently -- we are both AdSense users and have debated the need to advertiser (I don't like it, but it does cover the cost of hosting and a little of my time).

    The worst websites are eyesores, but generate a lot of income (not in our case, although our sites are ugly). The reason many websites make money on AdSense right now is because a user finds the site via a search engine, sees nothing they like and just wants to get away. Yet these eyesore sites sometimes don't offer a lo
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:11PM (#14958334) Homepage
    Marithe Francois Girbaud [girbaud.com], which sells good jeans, has an artistically beautiful web site. Interactive Flash pictures of jeans, with pop-up detail insets and info. Video of fashion shows. A long flash intro. Flash intros for each section. Cute animations. Menus of blank colored squares that display text only when the mouse is over them. Menus that move one way when you move the mouse the other way. A countries menu that starts out with a rotating 3D cube view of the world. Very cool, in an 1980s way.

    Can you figure out how to order something? How long did it take you? Keep trying. They really do sell online. Can you find the link? You'll find it quickly with Google (they have an ordinary Yahoo Store site), but can you find it on their main site? Don't give up. It will be worth it.

  • by Xugumad (39311) on Monday March 20, 2006 @03:57PM (#14959218)

    Moving past the "The article is really ugly, it's just an error mesage" jokes, here's some issues with the article:

    1. Mis-placed Google ads. What are they doing just under the title? Sure, it's eye-catching, but I don't want to have to scroll down to get at the article I've asked for.
    2. Fixed width. The page doesn't fit horizontally on my browser! Why? Well, lets start with the fact that someone decided that 450pixels is how wide I want the article. That's a really bad sign. Also, what's with the wasted space on the right hand side - for goodness sake people, stuff the Google ads in there! I can expand my window, but heaven help anyone using an 800x600 display.
    3. I'm scrolling, and suddenly some freaky Flash app is offering to speak text! Why on earth would I want a Flash application that speaks text I have to enter myself into the box? It, and the newsletter signup are apparently so incredibly important they need a quarter of the horizontal width of the page!
    4. It's all Arial. Arial, and other sans-serif fonts look very pretty, but are optimised towards small sections of text. Large blocks of text, such as article text, should be done using a serif font like Times, for readability.

    Getting pickier here... the header (blue on blue) is hard to read. Links are the wrong colour - as a user, brown-ish red means a link I've already been to, not a new link. It may look pretty, but it breaks user expectations.

    Look at the "Rate This Article" at the bottom. It uses numbers as links. Great, I just love single character anchors.

    The problem with web design is that too many companies hire people who came from advertising. The web is not an advertising medium - you can advertise as part of it, but fundamentally, if I'm reading your site, you have my attention already. Stop trying to get my attention, and focus on letting me get to the information I want as quickly and efficiently as possible. I'm am not here to drool over how many hours you spent deciding my web browser is 900 pixels wide, I am here to acquire information and move on to something more enjoyable.

    Having said that, actually ugly web sites are bad. If your website looks like you just discovered the header 1-5 buttons in Dreamweaver, and would have used a blinking marquee if you knew how, I'm going to avoid it. Bright yellow 24pt text on a light blue background is going to give me a headache. Plain websites are fine (Slashdot), efficient websites are ideal (GMail), but pretty sites I have to wrestle to get anywhere on, or ugly sites that look like they were created by a colour blind five year old are bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:16PM (#14959392)
    The first thing you learn in design school (I went to SIU) is "form follows function."

    Jacob Nielson's site, [useit.com], is a good place to start. From his latest article:

    Growing a Business Website: Fix the Basics First
    Summary:
    Offering clear content, simple navigation, and answers to customer questions have the biggest impact on business value. Advanced technology matters much less.

    He then lists "the biggest issues that led to lost business value in some of our recent consulting projects."

    Also from Nielson's latest: "the biggest design flaws destroying business value typically involve Communicating clearly, Providing information users want, and Offering simple, consistent page design, clear navigation, and an information architecture that puts things where users expect to find them."

    In short, as Nielson puts it: "Content rules. It did ten years ago, and it does today."

    -mcgrew(.info for my ugly site:)
  • by drew (2081) on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:17PM (#14959401) Homepage
    This guy seems to have a very odd perception of ugly. While I will grant that Plenty of Fish may not be the most attractive page ever, I would have to take issue with many of the other sites listed in the article. Craig's list is most certainly not ugly, and neither is Google (he doesn't outright call Google ugly, but he certainly implies it). And while I do see room for improvement on imdb, I see nothing wrong with their choice (or rather, lack thereof) of font. He seems to associate simplicity and functionality with ugliness, which is many times the opposite of the truth. Unfortunate, because he makes good points about functionality and targetting the right audience and then throws it all away when he calls sites that do these things "ugly".

    To borrow a thought from a previous thread here, he probably thinks Microsoft's redesigned iPod package [ipodobserver.com] is prettier than the original as well.

    After having read the actual article, I am left with the distasteful impression that this article is nothing more than a cleverly disguised ad for an ad supported dating website.
  • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:29PM (#14961323)
    From the Best Page in the Universe [thebestpag...iverse.net], about halfway down:

    "2. Protest. I'm keeping my web site shitty as a protest against all the slick-looking, contentless web sites out there. Nobody cares about your stupid rotating icons and fading links. Mine isn't the only site on the internet that uses a simple layout, perhaps you've heard of this one?

    _Picture of Google here_

    Some webmasters have spent years tweaking their layout and designing their site, and very few get any traffic. This site, as shitty as it looks, gets over 1 million visits per month. I use large fonts also as a protest against all the stylish garbage you see out there. When I go to a web site, I WANT TO READ THE CONTENT. Trust me, that micro-font everyone uses isn't nearly as original as they think. ..."


    All Hail Maddox!

"If you want to eat hippopatomus, you've got to pay the freight." -- attributed to an IBM guy, about why IBM software uses so much memory

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