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How a badly designed website can still be popular

1 July 2019

OK, so why would someone that works in the digital design industry be telling me that it’s ok to have a badly designed website… well lets clear that up… I’m not.

It’s not ok… it’s never ok… but what this article is about, is to show you how important user experience is. You can kind of get away with less than amazing design only if your user experience is bloody amazing, but never the other way around.

First off, let’s explain what design is in the digital industry… design is two things:

  1. User Interface Design (UI) and
  2. User Experience Design (UX)

UI Design

This is all about the look and feel.. the colors used, the imagery and the fonts are chosen, it’s extremely important and worth spending time and money on. It shows who you are and how you want to be perceived by your customers.

UX Design

User Experience is how Users use your product. It’s about understanding your users’ journeys, knowing what they want and making sure that they can find it easily.  

UX isn’t easy. It brings together lots of different disciplines and requires the full attention of them all. Your digital product needs to be Appealing, Effective, Pleasurable and Memorable

Without the user experience being amazing, it doesn’t matter how good your product is, no one will use it.

The first and most important part of both UI and UX is knowing who your customers are in the first place. You need to know as much as you can about them.

  • What Genre are they?
  • What is their age?
  • Why do they want to use your site?
  • When do they use it?
  • Where are they when they use it?
  • What is their end goal
  • What is the problem your website, product or app is solving?

Now it may look like we are only going to target one Persona with the above questions, but we will ask these questions for each of our target users, then we will prioritise them. We can’t build a site for everyone, but we can definitely cover off most of the personas that will come to our website.

In a study completed by Brafton, 55% of users make their mind up about whether they want to continue shopping/reading/using your website in the first 15 seconds. So that first engagement needs to be pretty amazing for a new potential customer to want to continue. To me, design matters, so I will take in the look and feel, then go and look for what I went there for… if I can’t find it I’m gone… But for some others, they must glass over the look and feel and just go for the content and usability

The best example of a site that, quite frankly, looks awful, but is just easy to use is Craigslist.

Craigslist now has over 70 million U.S. users and 50 billion page views every month, as well as 50 million daily queries! So in my mind, that’s 70 million users that don’t care that it looks terrible, just that it works.

This one website is a great example of being able to get away with having a really bad or outdated website design as their UX design is grade A. You wouldn’t get away with this in many other situations though. At the end of the day, Craigslist is… a list…  

Its design (or lack of) makes it quick and easy to find what you want… no bells and whistles, no lifestyle imagery and no following of the latest trends, it just works. It also hasn’t been redesigned in 20 years!, and there are 70 million reasons why a redesign of Craigslist is not needed… why fix something that isn’t broken.

I have a feeling that at some point Craigslist will give its users the opportunity of using an updated design of the site whilst still keeping the tried and tested version so that they can conduct A/B testing and make sure they don’t make a massive faux par.

So we can see how and why Craigslist gets away with little attention to design, but there aren’t many sites that would now. As our reliance on online shopping continues to grow, we have different expectations when we arrive on a site for the first time.

So if your website idea or business is as popular as Craigslist, still looks like a site from 1995, but has amazing User Experience, you’re onto a winner.. if any of the above is missing, contact us