Website uniqueness is overrated

Website uniqueness is overrated

You know your website doesn’t look great. Maybe it’s because you decided to first focus on developing the business, the product/service, the customer-base and find investors that made design fall between the cracks.

It doesn’t matter, the fact is – now you’ve grown enough that you have to find the time. So you hire an in-house designer or an agency, you share your vision, happily discuss what you want the site to say about your brand and ask them to create the right design for you. Now comes the tough part:

What do you do when the designer comes back with a mock up that looks exactly like everything else out there? Is that better or worse than if he/she would have given you a mock up that’s completely out there and unique?

Well you already know what I think (Hint: take a look at the title of this post).

Those of us who are not designers (this includes me and judging by the fact that you’re reading this and were not scared off by this site’s design, probably you) have this notion that designers are magical beings that can take your needs and transform them into something unique and beautiful that’ll make your site the envy of all competitors while at the same time, get potential customers so excited they immediately sign up. This is, sadly, a fairy-tale.

Topics covered in this post:

  1. The way we do things vs why we do things 
  2. Ordinary is better than uniqueness for site design
  3. If we all look the same, how will my business stand out

The way we do things vs why we do things

You are not an ordinary person. You are ambitious, creative and unique and you can’t stand the idea that your site will look just like every other site out there.

That’s a valid point but let’s think of something else for a minute –

Do you know why Steve Jobs was able to change the world when he introduced the home computer? Why Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was adopted so quickly and completely transformed how we connect and communicate today?

It wasn’t superior intelligence, the ability to see the future or some entrepreneurship characteristic that only great people possess. The thing they did that most of us don’t is understand how people think, what motivates us and how they, each in his own domain, can create something that makes it easier for us to be, well – ourselves.

Writing a story or a letter is much easier to do on a computer than on a typewriter. Scrolling through old friends’ profile pages on Facebook to see how they’ve changed and what’s new with them is more convenient than picking up the phone and asking them.

These innovations weren’t dreamed of over-night by a quirky isolated genius out of touch with reality. They required observation of real human behavior, insight into how we talk to each other, what grabs our attention, what things we do every day. In essence – these innovations required living, acting and interacting like everybody else.

The thing we all need to understand before we move on to the actual point of this post (which is site design, in case I’ve blabbed on too long and you’ve already forgotten) is that innovators like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg – their unique ideas where never about changing the “why” we do things, they only touched on the “way” we do things and you should remember that when contemplating how unique your site design should be.

Ordinary is better than uniqueness for site design

Why do you want your site to look unique? Maybe it’s to reflect the uniqueness of the product, maybe it’s to stand-out in an already crowded space.

Does any of your reasons have something to do with user experience? If you answered yes to this last question and your designer has found a unique way to make a positive impact on how simple it is for users to navigate your site, implement it right now. Otherwise, understand the simple truth that is: site uniqueness is always going to be in second place because the goal is not to be the most “different-looking” site on the web, the goal is to get conversions. Anything that doesn’t help conversions, is less important. Having a beautiful site is less important than having a converting one. It’s as simple s that.

Here’s an example: we know people tend to click on buttons. Why?

They’re eye-catching – confined in their own colored box with a nice CTA on them, and we know that when we click on them, something will happen. Let’s say you decide buttons aren’t right for your site’s style, that they’re too intrusive, they make your site look just like every other site out there (and let’s face it – buttons are ugly).

If you choose this route and replace buttons you’re basically shooting yourself in the leg. You have one goal with your site – get customers/readers/emails/whatever. If buttons are effective, they have to be a part of your design. Maybe you can think of something more effective than buttons, and you should definitely test any idea. But never forget your end goal which is make it easier for users to do what they want to do. Site design uniqueness is just not as important.

If we all look the same, how will my business stand out?

The way people interact with a website is one thing, and that should be as simple and easy to understand for the ordinary user as possible but your brand cannot be ordinary. It should have a unique voice and style, it should have unique selling points and it should be engaging for the right target audience – offering a perfect solution to their pain.

Don’t put all the burden of building out a unique brand on the website designer. That’s not fair.

Don’t get me wrong, website design should reflect your unique brand, but the goal should be to get you more customers. Use colors, messaging, PR, social and more to get creative and stand out, but keep the website funnel effective and focused on conversions rather than on branding.

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