‘Anti-Marketing’ Design Revisited: Your Site’s Design is Visually Beautiful…it’s Perfect. Now Change.
How much time have you spent on the appearance of your website? Putting the question in another way, how meticulous are you when trying to make your website look slick? Unfortunately, for most of you who spent a great deal of time and money on the LOOK of the design, your efforts may have all been in vain.
Design can be subjective. It comes as no surprise then that anti-marketing design, or what some call ugly-design (more on this later), had been of much debate since scobleizer wrote about anti-marketing design back in March of 2006. Raking up about 300 comments, it caused quite a commotion throughout the web and deserves a revisit. Without beating too much of the same arguments to death, I will touch up on some of the key points of this debate and provide some of my own thoughts to the discussion.
image credit: www.carouseldinnertheatre.com
Scoble’s post about anti-marketing design highlights plentyoffish.com as a prime example. According to the blog, Plentyoffish pulls in 10,000 visitors per day by Google (in 2006) and links its success to its anti-marketing design. Markus Frind, founder of Plentyoffish, mentions “ugly designs are well known to pull more revenue, be more sticky, build better brands, and generally be more fun to participate in, than sites with beautiful designs.”
A well-written counter blog was done by Leisa Reichelt. She responds back by disseminating the term “design” into two aspects closely following Scoble’s post. The visual design is the part which most people think of when contemplating design. The ‘look and feel’ however, is only half the equation. In her post she defines the aspects of design being part visual-based as well as information/interface-based, a critical difference that many often overlook. Information/interface design is the other part of the puzzle which refers to the ease of use(of the website) and placement of information. Clearly these are important things and deserve to be separated to its own part.
Anti-marketing design and ugly-design are often used interchangeably, which I do often (and please forgive me as I do so in this post as well). When using the term ugly-design, there is a common misconception how its used in this context. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understand about ugly-design is, that it doesn’t necessarily always mean the design is visually unappealing. It can be quite the opposite in fact. Ugly in this context refers to the core of anti-marketing….simplicity and functionality, raised to the highest priority. As a by-product, it can potentially be visually unattractive (i.e. Craigslist, Del.icio.us). At the same time, however, it’s not a prerequisite and can be in fact quite appealing (i.e. Google).
So how does one start with anti-marketing design? A systematic approach is to consider what information should be placed and how to fully utilize interaction between the site and your visitors. There’s no “best” layout, so just cognitively plan it out by keeping ’simplicity’ and ‘functionality’ in mind. When you have the information/interface design figured out, should you think about the visual design. Notice that is just one of the many ways to implement ugly design!
To summarize in a sentence, ugly-design’s purpose is to strip a site of its “ornaments” and put a higher priority over functionality with a minimalistic attitude. I dare say that ugly-design’s sole reason for its success can be due in part of the changing behavior of viewers in general. As I briefly discussed in my previous post regarding anti-marketing, people are becoming more and more inclined for simplicity, they want their information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Oftentimes adding flair (i.e. elaborate backgrounds, fancy images, etc.) can deter readers from absorbing information because it can easily be a distraction. By focusing your efforts on functionality, you can maximize on getting your information through to the readers.