Are Designers Clued In?

Ever since Scoble posted this post a debate has been raging about anti marketing design. It looks like the debate can be broken down into 2 sides, Designers are calling this BS.  My experience is that what users say they want and need has very little to do with what they really want.  There is no place this is more then true on Plentyoffish.com,  the information people enter in their profiles telling others what they are looking for does not correspond to what they actually use the site to search for.  

Why anti-marketing design will win or not win over pretty designs.

1. When it comes to sites dishing up commodity products the users ONLY want to use or consume the product.  Users don't want to be distracted by useless graphics, colors, features etc.   When you buy spoons from a place like walmart, you just pick them out of a big box of spoons. They don't come with a mountain of packaging, they don't come with manuals, and most of all they don't come plastered with pretty graphics and a "beautiful layout".   Search is a commodity, social networks are a commodity, and beautiful does not work for online commodities.

2.  If you want to sell status and power then you need to have a beautiful site.  Companies sell things like cars by playing off peoples insecurities, having an "ugly" site would make it very hard to sell luxury items.

3.  Anti-marketing design screams authenticity,  the content is far more important then the design and as a result sites designed like this bring in way more money then "pretty sites" when selling low end items.  There is no better example of this then the 1 page site that is really a 75 page sales letter.

I think the biggest problem today is that many designers are designing for their ego and not with the end users in mind.   I can understand that no one wants to make "lame bland" looking sites and as that would make their job extremely boring.   But at the end of the day who cares about how beautiful your site is if it doesn't make any money and no one uses it.

19 Responses to “Are Designers Clued In?”

  1. Kevin Says:

    While you raise several excellent points I still stand by that fact that users are more likely to prefer a well designed site to a poorly designed one, all other things being equal. Those ‘other things’ being content, usablility, etc.

    As for your point that ugly designs are seen as more authentic than beautiful ones, I don’t think so. Why? Because if I had a choice for which site I wanted to trust my credit card with, I’d take the one that looked like it had more work put into it. For the same reason that I’d be more apt to trust an email with better english than one that has extremely poor grammar.

  2. Jeremy Wright Says:

    Kevin: Your CC example is disingenious. You’re not doing tha tfor authenticity, you’re doing it because of trust.

  3. Andrew Johnson Says:

    What many designers don’t understand is that the “ugly” sites actually are well designed.

    For example, I’ve seen a lot of sites that have a “pretty” design but they use a light grey text. What the hell is the designer thinking? A lot of these guys spent a ton of money on an expensive art school and they are downright offended when someone tells them some slop job site will destroy their fancy flash & CSS plastered site when it comes down to dollars.

    I have a strong background in design. I’ve been an artist all my life, painting, designing, and drawing. If these designers actually owned any sites other than their portfolio they would understand.

  4. Cameron Olthuis Says:

    Bad Design Is Not Better: Round 2

    Bad design is better, blah blah blah. Markus from Plentyoffish.com is at again, trying to convince us all that bad design is better, or not . He’s added a little twist this time, saying that sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s …

  5. Serge Lescouarnec Says:

    I am not a designer but I sure try to offer something decent to my readers.

    Was offering the idea that ‘bad design is better’ done just to get some attention?

    Maybe ‘Less is More’ would be more relevant.

    Serge
    Biz:

    http://www.njconcierges.com

    Blog:

    http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

  6. abhi Says:

    When Kevin writes:
    Users are more likely to prefer a well designed site to a poorly designed one, all other things being equal. Those ‘other things’ being content, usablility, etc.

    He’s missing out on one important point – The minute two sites have a different design other things cannot be equal.

    A lot of websites aim to create a state in the user – invoke desires, invulnerabilites, passions, and/or do subliminal mind control and get the user to go into a state where they are more likely to do an action that is what the designer intended.

    If your site is addressing a need that is already present and the user has clarity then there is no need for a lot of the ‘beautification’.

    Ex: with wal-mart users already know what they want and that it’s best (or close) prices.
    They do not need to have pretty packaging to make them feel they’re buying exclusive or special spoons.

    all of the trappings then become excessive and anti to the outcome of letting users get what they want as painlessly as possible.

  7. Nul Says:

    The arguement is flawed and invalid, depends on the function and purpose of the site. You talk as if designers don’t take into major consideration a sites speed? Not sure where you get that idea from tbh, it is typically a priority depending on what the customer wants.

    I don’t get the fuss, it’s not like we have some internet punk style movement going here.

  8. NevDUll Says:

    If the point is to get people to click on ads, then wouldn’t an ugly site get people to click off of it on something that’s going to look better?

  9. Danny Yee Says:

    I’ve put a lot of work into the design and layout of my book review site, but by most peoples’ standards it’s probably “undesigned” – it’s totally image-free, for one thing. But people reading book reviews don’t care about “flash”, they just want something that’s easy to read; – there’s no way I could sell iPods from a site like that.

    So I agree with you, it all depends on what you’re trying to do.

  10. Jenny Says:

    There is this guy i met at wealthymen dotcom that works for a web firm as a web designer.. though he knew a lot about design principles, he is still tasked to follow a format that is not user friendly and all.. oh well.. he cant comment on it cuz that’s what their client wants..

  11. amperspective.net » Bad Design Is Not Better: Round 2 Says:

    [...] Bad design is better, blah blah blah. Markus from Plentyoffish.com is at again, trying to convince us all that bad design is better, or not . He’s added a little twist this time, saying that sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s not. Bad design is never better my friend. [...]

  12. amperspective.net » Bad Design Is Not Better: Round 2 Says:

    [...] Bad design is better, blah blah blah. Markus from Plentyoffish.com is at again, trying to convince us all that bad design is better, or not . He’s added a little twist this time, saying that sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s not. Bad design is never better my friend. [...]

  13. Bradley Says:

    you get what you pay for penty of fish is free because if where not no one would use it.

  14. Paul Says:

    Markus:

    I’m new to this “controversy”, but find it interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that my tag is The Anti-Marketer, although I mean it quite differently than what people are describing here. Marketing isn’t design. Design serves strategy and thought. Most marketers don’t think about why they do things, focusing instead on the window dressing — the design, creating ads, planning trade shows, etc.

    On the other hand, I too find your argument that design is not a key element disingenuous. Plentyoffish has plenty of design. Its design is simple, like Helvetica text is simple (OK, it isn’t as beautiful as Helvetica, but it’s still good design), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well done, or organized and presented to make the user’s task easier.

    If you are arguing against silly flash animations distracting me or stopping me from doing anything before I enter a site, then I would agree with you. Most flash is done to satisfy an illustrator’s ego, but from a functional perspective, it isn’t good design (even if pretty) — quite the contrary, it is horrible design.

    Point me at someone who thinks Plentyoffish exhibits bad design, and I’ll point you at an idiot who doesn’t understand the purpose of design. But don’t argue that yours is better because it lacks design — argue that it’s better because it uses design appropriately. Like Bauhaus, form serves function.

  15. Is there beauty in function over form? Ugly sites vs. pretty sites. « Bcadgroup’s Weblog Says:

    [...] If you’d like to see more about the ugly sites debate, check out the following link. [...]

  16. Hierasphalt Says:

    yea a bit like http://2meet4free.com/

  17. bobish Says:

    Ouloulou Oulala!

  18. online dating Says:

    Walgreens is DELICIOUS! they have everything!

  19. Jeazus! Says:

    checkout 2meet4free, its free but its also allows webcam chat

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