Why your pretty website is failing you

The best websites are pretty! The best websites are sexy! The best websites are cool!


There are 2 problems here.

Problem #1: what is best?

Take a moment and think about how you’d define “the best websites”.

  • What would you measure?
  • What characteristics would you look for?
  • How would you rank the characteristics?

Here’s what I’d measure:

  • Is the website meeting the goals set for it?
  • and
  • that’s
  • it

Are you trying to get people to sign up for your email newsletter? Then the metric is signups.

Are you trying to sell your service? Then the metric is purchases or requests for more information.

I’m trying to sell my services. My metric is how many people request a free, 20-minute discovery call. (You should consider it.)

There is no “best”. It isn’t a competition. Effectiveness is what matters.

And it’s impossible to accurately measure a website’s effectiveness from the outside. This is also why “build a website for me like Apple’s” is dangerous. Apple has goals for its site. You should have goals for yours. Those goals aren’t going to be the same.

Problem #2: what is pretty worth?

But aesthetics matter!

I imagine designers screaming that when I say that pretty doesn’t matter. But it doesn’t.

But aesthetics affect brand and brand affects perceived value. Right? 

On the surface, it might look like my “pretty doesn’t matter” position goes against that. And it does – on the surface.

My intent is to get you to focus on goals. If your goal is to create a luxury brand and sell luxury products, there is a required level of and type of aesthetic. They aren’t choosing that style for the sake of being pretty. It’s a deliberate decision supporting business goals. And that’s a huge difference.

Amazon doesn’t care about pretty. That’s not their game. Their website is designed to be effective and efficient. It’s styled to match.

Let’s make it personal. Answer these questions:

Have you ever bought a product or service from a website because of

  • the site’s color palette?
  • the site’s fonts?
  • parallax scrolling?
  • animations?
  • it’s similarity to Apple’s website?

Let me guess. No, no, no, no, and no. If you won’t, don’t expect your customers to do differently.

Want to know what cool fonts are good at selling? Cool fonts are great for selling cool fonts to people who like cool fonts. (Seriously, I have a problem.)

Not counting purchases for others, how cool does a website have to be to get a woman to buy a jockstrap? Impossibly cool since women generally don’t need them.

Let’s flip the question. Suppose you have cancer. Would you buy a cure (that you trusted) from a plain website? Would you buy the cure from a website that was nothing more than a Google doc with a click-to-buy link? Of course, you would.

The point

Website planning is a business decision. Like all business decisions, decisions about your website should be goal-oriented. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.

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