Weblinx, Incorporated

Myth #4: Every Website Should Be Unique and Edgy

A few years ago, a startling statistic started to make its way around the internet. It says, essentially, that the average first-time visitor to a website will leave after just three seconds if they aren’t impressed. This number has been floating around in lots of places, but we’ll credit Forbes for having the most popular reference.

Before we move on, let’s start by saying that the three-seconds statistic is entirely believable to us. In fact, in a world with 5G and broadband connections all over the place, things might be moving even faster.

Unfortunately, we think a lot of business professionals and marketers have taken the wrong message from that figure, not to mention all the other studies that have given similar results. That’s because a kind of conventional wisdom has risen from it. Basically, it states that your website has to stand out, with its unique design and function, in order to keep potential customers on the page.

web design ecommerce

You absolutely want to impress the people who are seeing your website and meeting your company for the first time. But as we hope, we will show in this article, being “different” for the sake of it probably isn’t the best way forward.

Web Design Standards Exist for a Reason

As with all the myths in these articles, the idea that every website design needs to be totally unique carries with it a grain of truth. If your pages look generic, or come from a common template, then you are going to blend in with the crowd. It’s never good marketing to look just like everyone else.

That’s particularly true online. The internet is built on creativity and innovation. What seems to be massively impressive at first glance becomes boring after you’ve seen it done for the millionth time. It’s always good to be pushing the envelope in your market or industry.

However, you can easily go too far. While good design sets you apart from the competition, changes to convention can be confusing or even frustrating. In other words, you can and should have a website that looks great, but it should operate in a way that all other websites do.

For a simple analogy, think about an exotic sports car. It might have doors that curve upward instead of opening outward, and the lines might be sleek. What car manufacturers won’t do, though, is change the position of a gas pedal or reduce visibility through a window. They don’t mess with the things that people use intuitively because it would be both unsafe and unnecessary.

Think the same way when it comes to your website. It’s perfectly fine to decide you want to open your page with a video instead of a hero image, or to go against the grain when it comes to the fonts and colors that are normally used by other business owners in your space. But you don’t want things to be so different that customers can’t figure out how to use your website in the first place.

Let’s go back to the three-seconds statistic that we referenced in the opening. When you actually look into the kinds of surveys and studies that are done, you find that someone will only wait a few seconds for a website to load. That doesn’t mean they won’t take a moment to check out the content and see if it’s right for them; just that they will click away if the content isn’t available at all.

That speaks to the importance of good web hosting, of course. It also points to a bigger truth, which is that online visitors have a very low tolerance for frustration. So, by attempting to make your website “different” just for the sake of it you are actually increasing the odds that potential buyers will leave. That’s because it gets frustrating for them if they can’t find things like links and search bars where they would normally be.

While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth pointing out that there are certain accessibility guidelines that every organization should adhere to. Recently, the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA) has been interpreted to include websites. So, if you aren’t following industry conventions with regard to easy-to-read text, obvious visual cues, and compatibility with disability-focused browsers, you can actually be sued. Even if that weren’t the case, it would make sense to appeal to as many types of customers as possible.

It’s true that good web design is all about innovation. However, basic standards and practices exist for reasons so it’s a good idea to follow them.

The Right Way to Get an Edge on the Competition

Visit any major city in America and you’ll find a handful of restaurants that exist solely for foodies. These are the places that serve asparagus foam on seaweed crackers instead of burgers and pizzas… and charge huge prices for those offbeat dishes. We have nothing against these sorts of establishments, nor the people who eat at them. What we can point out, though, is that they are rarely as profitable as the packed places that are a bit more down to earth.

We think of that difference sometimes when we consider the design awards that are given out in our industry. Again, we’re not saying these accolades aren’t fun and valuable (we’ve won many). Instead, our point is that the framed certificates aren’t as valuable as the word-of-mouth we get from satisfied customers who have seen their companies grow from the work we’ve done with them.

The most popular restaurants thrive by introducing local twists of established favorites. They use fresh ingredients and deliver great service. They focus as much on friendliness as they do flame control. If you want to surpass your online competition then we would urge you to do the same. Think about how your website can be better, not just different.

In reality, that almost always comes down to one of three things: introducing new functionality, offering stronger content, and/or being more intentional about your branding. To put that another way, your website should be able to do things your competitors’ websites don’t, give out more and better information, and look like it belongs to your specific company.

This isn’t a complicated formula, but it’s easy to overlook when you are too busy trying to emphasize creativity. Think about your very best customer. Now think about the website they would most want to find and use. Imagine them scrolling through the pages, clicking the links, and reading the content. The chances are good that what your ideal buyer needs isn’t something that hasn’t been dreamed up before. What they want are fast and accurate solutions to their problems. If something feels like a puzzle, it isn’t going to be helpful to them.

In some ways, leaning on creativity and unconventional thinking can be a crutch. That’s because it’s always easy to change visuals or go bold with headlines when what you should be doing is getting to know more about your market. As I’ve already mentioned in the past, business owners love looking at visuals. They are less interested in answering detailed questions about their work or thinking about topics like website programming.

You should absolutely be looking to get an edge on your competition when you launch a new website. If it looks better than theirs does, that’s fantastic. But what matters most is that it does a better job of serving your customers – and by extension, does more to help take your business into a higher gear of profitability.

Distinct and Different Don’t Mean the Same Things

You want your next website to stand out, but for the right reasons. After all, you notice plenty of people in a day, but not always in a way that feels impressive or complementary. Going too far out there with your web design is like making an odd fashion choice in a business setting. You have to be very sure the move is going to come off before you commit to it.

Keep this in mind as you look at mock pages and give direction to your creative team. Think about your customers, the industry and geographic area you work in, and the kind of tone you want to set for your business.

If it turns out that you really do want to do something different and be offbeat, that’s just fine. And if your creative partner comes up with something that’s both cutting-edge and useful to your business, then run with it. But when it comes down to it, always prioritize value and functionality over everything else. That’s what buyers want, and what matters in the end.

You want your website to be distinct, but that doesn’t mean it has to be different from all the others in the way that it looks and performs. In fact, going too far outside the box might just confuse customers and end up costing you new leads or sales.