*This article was originally posted on imediaconnection.com but is written by HMG Creative.
Online, a good web presence can make or break your company. If a potential hollywood customer lands on your site and is immediately overwhelmed by an overload of information, hard-to-read text and advertisements, they will likely be turned off and go elsewhere to find a similar service. Who would waste their time browsing through an impossibly confusing site?
Let’s compare this situation to a real-world analogy: You presumably wouldn’t walk into a corporate business meeting in jeans and a ratty old t-shirt. Why? You’d look unprofessional, stand out (in a bad way), and make a poor impression on yourself and your company. Not many people, with the exception of a few highly respected world leaders, CEOs and philanthropists could pull that off and still garner respect. On the Internet, these individuals Toronto lawyer come few and far in the form of websites. In other words, it’s hard to find a well-respected company with a website comparable to a business professional dressed down in old jeans and a t-shirt.
Of course, these websites do exist – what they all have in common is their superb and unique service. The customer simply does not care enough about the site’s aesthetics to let that stop them from using the company’s service. Furthermore, these customers often do not embrace change, especially for relatively straightforward services—which may be why changes in such company’s websites are typically subtle. Let’s take a look at four respectable companies with lackluster web presences that don’t measure up to the company’s success or reputation.
If you haven’t used Craigslist or know someone who’s used Craigslist, you’ve surely heard about the monster classified ads website. Whether you’re looking for jobs, to buy or sell items or services, a new roommate (search at your own risk) or even personals and missed love connections, Craigslist likely has what you need. You can find anything (honestly anything) from a used TV for sale to someone who will clean your pool for you. From the normal to the most bizarre requests, Craigslist truly has it all—except a visually appealing website.
When you first load the site, your vision will be flooded with lists and lists of categories in blue text: jobs, for-sales, services, discussion forums, and more—and it is not pretty. The only apparent organization system on the site seems to be by title. If you’re looking for a menu bar for assistance, give up because there isn’t one. Everything is right on the site’s homepage. What you see is what you get. In certain aspects, it’s simple—click on what you’re looking for and follow the prompts. In other ways, it’s unnecessarily complicated with a lack of any form of organization system whatsoever. Either way, it works—in 2012, the estimated revenue of the private company was $126 million. With more than 60 million users a month in the U.S. alone and 50 billion monthly page views, Craigslist has clearly managed to uphold its reputation despite its plain web presence.
Like Craigslist, Reddit is a free, community-based site. However, instead of selling things, members simply post content such as text, images, or direct links. The content can be virtually anything—news, jokes, random thoughts, crowdsourcing, etc. Community members (“redditors”) vote on stories and discussions they like, so that the best content stays at the top and the unpopular stuff dwindles away into cyberspace. Also, unlike Craigslist, Reddit receives a portion of its revenue from advertising. They recently announced they’d be giving 10% of advertising revenue to charity.
Another thing Reddit has in common with Craigslist is its visually unappealing interface. While it comes in slightly ahead of Craigslist simply because the content that’s posted on Reddit often employs images, it’s not far behind. The site is set up in a list format and looks like it hasn’t been changed much since it was launched. With blue text overlaying a white background, the design isn’t a far cry from Craigslist and is far from sophisticated or unique. Nevertheless, millions of users use and subscribe to Reddit every day, confirming its reputation and popularity. Its bland site design and lack of visual appeal clearly don’t correlate to this company’s success.
If you have a business platform that is so unique and important for people to use that they don’t care about aesthetics, that’s fantastic. But for most of us, we need that web presence to boost our reputation and make us look like we’re ready to attend that business meeting. Here are a couple of smaller, but well-to-do companies who could benefit from a site overhaul:
Plenty of “deal of the day” websites require you to register before you can see the actual deals, but Zulily’s homepage gives you next-to-no information about what the site does. One of its biggest design problems is that the little bit of information you can find about how the site works is buried at the bottom of the page under a banner that looks like advertising—thus making the viewer ignore everything below it. Another issue is that links to “How Zulily Works,” “Brands We Love,” and “FAQ” appear in tiny type. Furthermore, there is no secondary call to action if the visitor isn’t ready to register. What would make them decide to return? The bottom line regarding Zulily’s website design is that it’s simply too difficult for non-registered users to learn about the site. If you’re going to be a membership-only site, at the very least allow non-members to easily learn about the benefits of joining. You’ll not only be helping them, you’ll be helping yourself get more members.
Unlike Pure Ecommerce’s site, this description will remain short and sweet. Essentially, you have to read through lengthy blocks of copy just to find out what the company offers. Once we click on their call to action, we’re only directed to more copy and blocks of texts with little visual relief. Not exactly a one-click, ready-to-go experience as promis
Ultimately, where Craigslist and Reddit, and Zulily and Pure Ecommerce differ is in their ease of use. While none of the aforementioned sites are particularly appealing from a visual perspective, Craigslist and Reddit hit the nail on the head with user-friendliness and simplicity. Zulily and Pure Ecommerce, two companies with a solid service and great potential, should take notes from Craigslist and Reddit. If you’re going to be bold enough to neglect your web presence, at the very least make sure your site has a key essential: functionality. Can you think of any successful companies with sub-par websites? Please feel free to share below in a comment.