Why ugly websites are so successful

Accuracy, search and menu clarity trump a pretty design.

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I use Techmeme all the time. I find it to be an excellent news website. It’s a collection of well-selected links to important issues in the technology industry. In addition to the quality of its stories, it has black text on a white background and a fairly large size, legible font.

Gabe Rivera claims that the Drudge Report is “the Web’s ugliest news site.” That’s probably true, as well as the fact it’s one of the Web’s most influential and highly trafficked websites. Again, it’s a bunch of carefully selected links laid out in the most basic manner possible.

And that’s similar to Craig’s List, another website whose homepage is dominated by links and not a single image. A very ugly website, indeed. Ebay, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Google are not much better in the visual design area.

Did ugly visual design help these websites become more successful? The accepted wisdom in the Web design industry is, absolutely not. Most Web designers would say that Craig’s List and the Drudge Report would be more successful if they had a more pleasing visual design. There are studies from, for example, Stanford University, that state that the visual appeal of the website significantly influences people.

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