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Opinion piece – How Can ‘Ugly’ Websites be so Popular

Opinion Piece

Sam Keenan

Head of Web

Sam’s expertise spans multiple market sectors, from B2B to B2C, and brings a strategic approach that is focused on growth. Sam aims to focus on delivering websites with a nice balance of SEO, Design and UX elements.

The thing with creative industries like Web design is, that it’s subjective. Each agency and individual will have their own priorities, their own style and flare plus budget ranges. It can be hard to strike a balance between UX, look and feel, function, speed, SEO and so on. So, companies need to prioritise what is important to them based on their website objectives.

As a consumer I personally prefer websites that simply work, I like to land on a website and know exactly what I am looking for, that is easy to navigate on my phone and doesn’t take long to load. This is why ecommerce sites with huge amounts of products opt for function over style. One of, if not the most famous website known for lacking in beauty is Amazon.
It’s no secret that websites like Amazon, Reddit, and eBay are considered ‘ugly’, but they are not built to be stunning like the Apple website for example, but fundamentally they work. These websites hold millions of pieces of content, so their objective is simply to deliver what users want or need, resulting in high conversion rates.

So what can we learn from Amazon?
It seems like a sleek interface and minimalist design is a dominant website design, however, Amazon’s website might appear dated or even unsightly to some. Critics often point to its cluttered homepage, lack of visual finesse, and absence of the trendy design elements commonly associated with modern websites. Yet, despite these apparent shortcomings, Amazon continues to reign as the undisputed king of online retail.

For starters, Amazon prioritises function over aesthetics, the enterprise invests hugely in UX and A/B testing teams who work daily to improve the way the website serves its users, consumers and browsers.

While other ecommerce platforms may prioritise aesthetics, Amazon prioritises efficiency and convenience above all else. From its accurate and fast search functionality to its seamless checkout process, every aspect of Amazon’s user interface is meticulously crafted to facilitate one thing: making it as easy as possible for customers to find and purchase the products they desire.

This message of convenience is carried through to the service Amazon provides leaving users feeling satisfied, the speed and the website function help feed into the quick delivery service for Prime users, encouraging consumers to take up a subscription. Consumers are so impressed with the service and efficiency that they are not even considering the workers behind the service, but that is another topic of conversation altogether.

The other side of the coin
In contrast to Amazon’s function over style approach, Apple’s website stands out as an industry leader in sleek design and visual elegance. From its minimalist layout to its crisp typography and vibrant imagery, every aspect of the Apple website is carefully curated to evoke a sense of luxury and sophistication. Apple’s signature aesthetic creates an immersive browsing experience that feels more like a journey of discovery than a simple shopping chore. Apple can achieve this simply because it is selling one collection of products (Apple phones, iPads, laptops and accessories) in comparison to Amazon which holds over 600 million products.

Setting objectives
Am I saying you need to opt for an ugly site to drive traffic or even a stunning site that relies on photography – no. You need to spend time understanding your target audience, look at competitors and brands that inspire you. Understand your website objectives, prioritise what you can achieve within your budget (this is when investing in an agency is worthwhile).
Deciding the approach for your website and setting those priorities you can then nail down the site objectives, here’s a few to mention:
– Ecommerce
– Lead Generation
– Booking system
– Portfolio
– Publication and Content

To conclude
The design contrasts of Amazon and Apple’s websites provoke a fascinating debate: does aesthetic appeal truly trump functionality? Amazon’s no frills interface champions efficiency and practicality, prioritising ease of use over visual flair. On the flip side, Apple’s website seduces with its sleek aesthetics, boasting a symphony of clean lines and captivating imagery.

Still, amidst this debate, both giants share a singular objective: to cater to the diverse needs of online consumers. Whether you find solace in Amazon’s functional simplicity or marvel at Apple’s aesthetic sophistication, the essence of effective ecommerce lies in satisfying the customer’s cravings (be it for convenience or elegance).

Do I have a preference? No, I appreciate the efforts behind Apple’s design and brand but as a Prime user who regularly shops on Amazon, I am grateful for the easy use and speed on searching and spending, my bank account might say otherwise!

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