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Why does every website look the same?

Discussion in 'Tech talk' started by Greg_M, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    There's been quite a bit of discussion on the boards recently about costs etc associated with web design and increasingly I've seen a "sameness" appearing in many sites that's started to get very predictable regardless of budget.

    This morning while reading an article on web design trends for 2018 I came across the following link...for the uninitiated "Bootsrap" is a clever toolbox of stuff designed to speed up web design and development...

    http://adventurega.me/bootstrap/

    A bit of fun but worth checking out before you hand over your money for a unique design.

    P.S.
    Any visual designer's reading this, that think they can break this mould I'd be happy to hear from you for a chat (no coding knowledge required).
    House, bradzo, Lucy Kippist and 2 others like this.
  2. heylouise

    heylouise Member

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    I will admit, I use ready-made themes as a starting point for many website projects. But I tweak them in such a way that they don't resemble the original theme.

    Some people are so used to seeing a large image at the top, tiny fonts, a row of icons, % bars, etc. that they expect that's how a professional website should look.

    Some people are bothered by the "cookie cut" website build. Others are not.

    But you can use a "standard" looking theme like that, and make it look unique.

    The beauty of this sort of work is that you can transform things as little or as much as you want.

    It all depends how important it is for you to stand out visually from your competitor's websites.
    m4engineers and Greg_M like this.
  3. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    Agreed.

    I think any web designer or developer that doesn't use (or claims they don't) use some sort of template/theme as a starting point is either lying about it or a bit of a dill if they're producing websites at a price point that's anywhere near affordable to the masses.

    Like a lot of things, the general population doesn't want to be seen to be "too" different...what they think is cool (maybe fancy sliders and/or parallax) is what they want.

    I do get a little annoyed when web designers/developers don't own up to using these tools...one look at their source code, and you know they're bullshitting.

    Maybe that design pattern "just works" ...it seems to, for many situations, as long as the USP and content is ok.

    But imo it is starting to get a little "same same" especially on mobile (where my clients live and breathe).

    How you do something different that's not a disgusting mess both visually and in content presentation is the real design challenge imo. Something that I'm crap at and why the offer in the P.S.
  4. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    And here's one from the same article and a growing trend apparently in breaking the mould...

    http://brutalistwebsites.com/

    I love it...but it'd be pretty hard to sell a client on it (mine anyway).
  5. LucasArthur

    LucasArthur Renowned Member

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    awesome link here - you need to get back to fishing in order to refresh your ideas.,, LOL
  6. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    Ha ha

    Pushing 40 here today and a bit windy, so I'm hiding inside pretending I'm working.

    Maybe tomorrow :)
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  7. bb1

    bb1 Renowned Member

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    Simple really web developers like the marketing industry see someone else do something that seems to work and jump on the band wagon. There is no get up and go in either industry.

    Have you seen how 2 of our cars ad's could almost come out of the same factory at the moment, the ford and Toyota ad's appear to use the same clone as the feature. Web design has gone the same way.
  8. JohnTranter

    JohnTranter Well-Known Member

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    I think that's not that bad a thing. I don't want to have to work out how to use a website in order to purchase my $10 iphone cover. I want it to work basically the same as the other websites I'm used to. Good design helps people get to where they want, it's not to make the designer feel good.
    Personally I hate those 'unusual' sites you linked to, I mean who the hell uses a random Wikipedia page as a background for their site? It may look fun, but I can't actually read any content. Most of those sites look like they're from the early 90s, when people were experimenting with yellow text on purple backgrounds just to 'stand out'

    It's a misnomer to say that all Bootstrap sites look alike, Bootstrap was partly marketed as a framework for Developers with no design skills, so they could get up a basic site for their product without needing a designer, hence many startup sites look the same. (my site is basically vanilla bootstrap)
    However you'll find many sites using Bootstrap components that look nothing like mine.It's a great framework that allows you to use many common components without having to reinvent the wheel each time.

    I think the main issue with web design these days is that everyone thinks they're an expert, and everyone is a critic. I pity anyone on these forums who's a web designer, they're probably the most undervalued members.
    m4engineers and Alexander Porter like this.
  9. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    G'day John,

    I wasn't having a go at Bootstrap, I only mentioned it for people who've never heard of it, seeing as the link had "Bootstrap" plastered all over it. Maybe I wasn't clear enough.

    I was actually commenting on the layout design pattern itself i.e big header image, followed by the usual 3 or 4 column grid with minimal text and icons etc etc.

    I see frontend frameworks (not just Bootstrap) as important style guides for any developer/designer...they give you auto consistency across a lot of fronts and save a lot of faffing about with stuff like layout grids, navigation, forms etc etc.

    Most frontend frameworks come with a couple of "starter" templates often with a similar layout to the linked one...and I've used them myself plenty of times but the "sameness" does get boring, and ok the "brutalist" websites go a step too far in the other direction for most use cases.

    I don't see "usability" being lost by getting away from that particular layout pattern BUT you're correct you need a GOOD designer to do it, hence my request in the PS of the original post because I'd personally like to offer clients something better (subjective) than a hacked starter template.

    Cheers
  10. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    Good design is very rare regardless of industry e.g. after 40 odd years in construction I can usually date a buildings architecture to within a year of it's construction date...most designers play follow the leader imo.

    Good design "stays" good design forever.

    I also think 'clients' drive this follow the leader tendency, but some have learn't from bad experiences it's the wise thing to do.
    ScarlettR likes this.
  11. bb1

    bb1 Renowned Member

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    @JohnTranter and @Greg_M I get what you are both saying, but every second post on here (just happened again), says look at what your opposition are doing. Sound great, sounds easy, sounds boring.

    Do we want to stand out from the crowd or do we want to shine and beat the crowd.

    Generally (very general statement), those who set the trend shine, and those who try to follow fail. Look at Bunnings and Master's, Bunnings set the trend, Masters copied and failed. Maccas and Hungry Jacks, Hungry jacks hasn't failed but they are an irrelevance in the market in comparison. I could go on, and you could most likely highlight some others.

    Don't let the web designers and marketers say thast what XYZ is doing so just follow, be inventive, be Brave.
    kindamindi2018 and Greg_M like this.
  12. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    As you say, it's the innovators, not the plagiarists that achieve the best results. Otherwise the only point of difference tends to become price, the web design sector is a classic example of that...how many designers have you seen rise and then fade away on this forum? I've mentioned before that as a business model stand alone 'web design' is one of the worst and toughest business gigs I've had any involvement with, cream does rise but there doesn't seem to be room for many at the top where the kudos and $ live (but I guess it's the same in a lot of other sectors).

    I'm getting a bit old to be very brave, but when I look back, the things I did get right in my life (took a few kickings for the ones I got wrong too) did require not being one of the "sheep" and taking a risk.

    One of my favourite quotes that's stuck with me over the years is;

    "If your not the lead dog, the view is always going to be the same."

    Cheers
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  13. Paul - FS Concierge

    Paul - FS Concierge Administrator Staff Member

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    Indeed @Greg_M,

    That's one of the reasons I selected a Whippet instead of a Basenji

    It is worth stating that a lot of the designs look good as off the shelf themes but people butcher them.

    But from the non-design point of view, those that leave them fairly stock miss out on the basics sometimes such as Name, Address Phone number, ABN, Returns and Shipping Policies, Privacy and Trading Terms etc.

    As well, they are constructed from a design point of view which typically means fewer words - consumers often like more words so their is sometimes a built in conflict of goals.

    I hope you had a great New Year Greg.
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  14. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    Thanks Paul,

    The New Year is looking pretty busy for an old bloke, as mentioned elsewhere, that's a bit sad when I'd rather sit on the beach....can't complain though the bills don't care about what I want.

    You're right, a lot of off the shelf themes and templates are very good and done by very good designers to boot. There's more than one occasion that they've made me look a lot better than I really am.

    Apart from the obvious butchering and basic marketing errors (which I'll stay out of thanks) the main problem I see with a lot of themes, especially when in the hands of a DIY'er is that because they're built by professional theme builders, they tend to be full of "suck in widgets" that generate so much code that can cause issues (mainly load speeds and maintenance)...that's ok when you know how to pull out the crap or optimise it...but it's where the DIY'er starts getting into trouble, or starting on a very long learning curve.

    Cheers
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  15. bb1

    bb1 Renowned Member

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    A bit like when I started this gig, I went to the JD dealer and said I want a RO to do the day to day, he pointed to the $7K model and said this is what all the contractors are using, I pointed to the $20K model and said why aren't they using that, he basically said its $20K and no need for that much grunt.

    I spent $20K and was completing jobs in half the time of others (but still charging more), and was able to do more of the jobs others had to knock back, so my client base shot up very quickly. Not long after a few of the sheep started following.

    Not really an innovator, but thinking outside the square and not following all of the sheep, which I think we have agreed is what web developers have become.
    Greg_M likes this.
  16. Greg_M

    Greg_M Renowned Member

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    "thinking outside the square" is a much better way of putting it. You don't need to be another Steve Jobs.
  17. El Arish Tropical Exotics

    El Arish Tropical Exotics Active Member

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    Totally agree on the huge evocative images with little text. They may work for some types of aspirational ecommerce but information is what most people want. And of course they have longer load time with no keywords or content.

    I have a feeling that they will date very quickly.

    Ann
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  18. Zava Design

    Zava Design Renowned Member

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    Many websites look the same for the following reasons, none of it rocket science:

    1) Using off the shelf templates - Something I personally have never done, nor have any interest in doing, as I believe every design should be client objectives and target audience driven, however I know many are more concerned with budget than effectiveness. But that's not my target market, nor ever has been, which is probably smart since most of the bottom budget ranges will move to services such as Squarespace and the like more and more.

    (One pet hate I do have is when a "designer" is not open with their clients that they use off the shelf templates rather than original designs, I do regard that as ethically questionable...)

    2) Client's driving a particular design style - Sometimes no matter how much you explain to a client why one particular, possibly more unique, style may be perfect for their specific objectives and target audience, in the end they are paying the bill. I am extremely honest with my clients, I have been told one of the key elements of why I have so many clients either referring me or returning for repeat business, so I will be honest with them about their preference for an overly common style or similar if I believe it won't contribute to their business. But in the end, the final choice is their's. Most do listen to me and accept my professional advice, while some do not. Their choice.

    3) Usability practices that web users have come to expect on a website, many of which do actually come from some fairly in-depth usability studies so do have merit. This would include things such as the main menu being either at the top of down the left side, the main message/content being top of page ...etc.

    And you can see this in practice in anything that is "designed". Look how newspapers all have a similar style, magazine covers, even book covers. And consider Apple's guidelines on design app interfaces, they are very strict for a reason. Yes you can find those that differ from the "norm", but in the end designing a website should be lead from a usability & function perspective, not a visual one, you're creating a business tool, not art.

    I would also add in that many businesses feel they simply "have to" have a website up with no real thought into what it needs to do for them, in which case it is only about the cost which means that anything original is not a factor. And in some instances, with a "zero" budget, it would probably have been better to maybe simply stick with a facebook page. Though then you also need to take into account doing at least the occasions updates. But many bars I know (as one example) don't have a website at all, and re-direct their domain name to their facebook page, which they use for their online marketing and communications, and it works very effectively for them. Once again, that decision comes from recognising how best they can reach their target audience and communicate what they need to communicate.
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  19. John Romaine

    John Romaine Renowned Member

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    Why?

    It's about efficiency.

    You can have your Zinger burger in 2 minutes or you can wait half a day while they catch the chicken, neck it, pluck it, gut it, clean it, cook it, then crumb and season it.
  20. Zava Design

    Zava Design Renowned Member

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    Because they're not being open about what they're doing. They're not being honest that they're serving a McDonalds burger rather than a personally cooked meal (to use your analogy). Up to the paying clinet what they choose but they should be choosing from an informed position, I see more than a few service providers not being completely open with their clients.

    There are HUGE differences in the "product" they're being served (to continue the analogy a little...).
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