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And this is where the skilled designer can make a difference. But it will still be while adhering to the usability lessons the past two decades have taught us, and hence why many sites – at a higher level – look very similar.
Also something to keep in mind: “at a high level”…
I would almost guarantee you that many “laypersons” could show any skilled designer two websites they believe look very similar, and they would be able to point out the many actual differences between the two that will contribute to one or the other performing better or worse. Though often some of the reasons why may not even be apparent from the visual design.
Which leads onto this comment from above:
The visual design of any site is simply one component of what is required to build an effective website. Obvious elements include:
– Visual design/UI
– Performance (server, SEO, cross-broswer, cross-device)
…plus others I’m sure others can add.
All of these are “tools” of one kind or another, and all are required to be fitted and work well together for an effectively performing website.
It’s why, even if we started with some off-the-shelf template design, you give that template to someone that knows what they are really doing in regards to building a highly effective, good performing website, versus someone that doesn’t understand the technical, usability & communication requirements BEHIND the visual aspects, and you will have two very different outcomes.
But I certainly don’t find it “annoying” that sites look more similar nowadays, for me it means that clients & developers are realising there’s far more to building an effective website than making it look “prettier”, and are now putting far more attention on all these other aspects, which is creating far more usable websites for users overall.