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The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites 468

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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  • Here's two examples: (Score:5, Informative)

    by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:28PM (#14957936) [] []

    Butt ugly, horrible backends and still rolling in dough.

  • Article Text (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:29PM (#14957942)
    Ugliness has never looked better. I have spent the last few days examining a surprising trend in web design that has made ugly websites look absolutely irresistible. No, its not the bolded, 18 point Times New Roman font shouting at me as I access the page that has me excited, nor is it the harsh colors that have actually managed to make my eyes hurt and distort my vision. In fact, its not even that logo which is so pixelated from being processed, resized, saved, and edited so many times that it appears to be blurred to protect the identity of the company who owns the website that has me singing the praises of ugly websites. What is it?

    Ugly sells.

    That's right - ugly websites are surprisingly effective in making money. As a person who puts business before technology, a profitable website is a website is an unbelievably attractive website to me.

    The Case of Plenty of Fish

    I was struck by an example of just how effective ugly websites can be this past week as I was browsing through some web related news. I stumbled across the story of Plenty of Fish. This is a very plain looking website that offers a free online dating service much like (but without the subscription fee). There was nothing specifically impressive about the website that stood out to me, in fact the site was actually rather ugly.

    What caused me (and I am sure several other people) to take a second look at the website was its reported earnings. It is reported that this website brings in over $10,000 from Adsense - in one day. Yes, you did read that correctly. For those of you counting, that is $300,000 per month and nearly one million dollars in just three months.

    The example of Plenty of Fish lead me to consider how an ugly website could be so successful. As I looked around, I suddenly realized that this was not the only successful ugly website. Ebay is unbelievably ugly, Craigslist has never won an award for innovative design, and IMDB has never even bothered to format their text out of the default Times New Roman. What is it about ugly websites that makes them so successful?

    The Ability to Convey Trust

    A while back I wrote an article on Controlling Your Visitors Eyes. The main point to this article was that you have less than a second to convey your marketing message to your visitor, and that every aspect, from your font selection, to the colors, navigation, and layout of your website play a part in conveying your marketing message.

    When I wrote this article, I had beautiful, CSS designed websites in mind. The idea of an ugly website could present a positive message never crossed my mind. Yet the fact is, ugly websites do have the ability to present the perfect marketing message. What is that message?

    You can trust us. We are a family run business and do not employ a marketing team. Our website is simple, but functional. Most importantly, our goal is to serve our customers, not necessarily learn HTML.

    As Internet professionals, we often forget that a large part of our society is actually afraid of the Internet. Although online shopping is growing, most people still have concerns about online security and the impersonal nature of the web. Most people do not know how to surf efficiently and use only the default tools that are given to them when they take their computer out of the box.

    And this is one reason that ugly websites can sell. The lack of professionalism and a polished look leads one to believe that they are dealing with an individual. Websites cannot be trusted, but individuals can be trusted.

    Function Over Form

    Although the above theory holds true in many examples, I believe there is more to the success of ugly websites than just conveying trust. Many of the websites that I referenced above have one underlying trait that can be attributed to their success: they are extremely easy to use.

    Google is probably the best example of how functionality over form can lead to success. When Google init
  • by nywanna ( 960908 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:31PM (#14957965)
    Plenty of Fish was an example on Threadwatch and Webmasterworld, so it was an easy example - nothing more. I could have used one of my ugly sites, but then again, that would have to be admitting that it was an ugly site. :)
  • Re:Maddox (Score:5, Informative)

    by RalphLeon ( 856789 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:44PM (#14958116) Homepage
    Good comment, better link: Maddox [].
  • 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 [] out there supported it!
  • Myspace if fugly. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Captain Scurvy ( 818996 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:57PM (#14958220)
    *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.
  • Re:Ugly sites... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:00PM (#14958245)
    Here's some free advice:

    1) Why do you have two separate links for each category one above the search and one below? This makes it look like you have twice as many categories than you actually do. Which means your site looks too complicated - I'm dumb and don't like complicated things. Put the sub-categories on tool tips on the top listings and get rid of the repeated category listing altogether.

    2) What's with the "Page created in 0.20673513412476 seconds."? Why do I care? You might care, but I doubt even you care how many nano-seconds the page took to build. If you're going to keep this on your page trim the number of decimal places. A google search will tell you to the hundreths of a second how long a search took, but (I think) the only reason google shows you this is to show you they're faster than their main competition.

    3) Usually contact info is located at the bottom because it's the least relevant link/info to an average user. Don't break with established convention unless you have a good reason. It's out of the way on your site, but it's in an odd spot. Plus, it adds to the information a vistor has to process when they first load your page.

    4) Buy GUI Bloopers (the book) and read it. Your site doesn't return the correct result for it, but I guess that's because you don't provide search for books.

    I think your first page has some minor problems, but the rest of the site looks pretty good.
  • by nywanna ( 960908 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:36PM (#14958542)
    nywanna is daoustmark. I am the same person...I submitted to both Slashdot and Digg. Hope that's not a problem.
  • by Taevin ( 850923 ) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:41PM (#14958586)
    Just rating a comment on Slashdot requires reloading the entire slow page of comments.

    1. Use Firefox or some other tabbing browser.
    2. Open new tab with the post to moderate (middle click the post number).
    3. Select moderation.
    4. Click moderate button.
    5. Close tab.
    6. Profit?

    In fact, that's how I do all of my posting.
  • by adnonsense ( 826530 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:56PM (#14958716) Homepage Journal

    ... they changed that a while back.

    "However, You may accurately disclose the amount of Google's gross payments to You pursuant to the Program." (from the Terms and Conditions [], point 9 "Confidentiality").

  • From the Best Page in the Universe [], 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!

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury