Home – New Forums Tech talk Why does every website look the same?

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  • #1212733
    bb1
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    Greg_M, post: 262953, member: 38207 wrote:
    Point taken on a website just being a tool (with a specific target/purpose in mind),
    I’m not sure what shocked me more that you and [USER=34615]@Zava Design[/USER], both think a website is only a tool therefor it’s acceptable that they all look the same, thinking how much I generally take both of your comments with much respect.

    Or the fact that every real quality marketer (are there any) hasn’t jumped on you for saying it’s just a tool. For online business’s this is the front door, the shop front, the marketing channel, the way into my living room, the way to get the dollars out of my pocket and into theirs, isn’t that what its all about getting my money. And you say it’s ”just” a tool. It’s the whole big bang shazam for any online business, and now a days for a lot of service business, etc.

    Just a tool, come on marketers stand up and tell them they are wrong.

    #1212734
    Greg_M
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    bb1, post: 262956, member: 53375 wrote:
    I’m not sure what shocked me more that you and [USER=34615]@Zava Design[/USER], both think a website is only a tool therefor it’s acceptable that they all look the same, thinking how much I generally take both of your comments with much respect.

    Or the fact that every real quality marketer (are there any) hasn’t jumped on you for saying it’s just a tool. For online business’s this is the front door, the shop front, the marketing channel, the way into my living room, the way to get the dollars out of my pocket and into theirs, isn’t that what its all about getting my money. And you say it’s ”just” a tool. It’s the whole big bang shazam for any online business, and now a days for a lot of service business, etc.

    Just a tool, come on marketers stand up and tell them they are wrong.

    I think a website is a tool, it has to be. It’s how good a tool it is for the “owners” business that matters.

    Not much different than mowers really. I could go to my local hardware and spend under $500 ,buy a crap one and go into business cutting grass, or do as I believe you’ve done and invested in plant that takes you to committed serious level with your business.

    A website today (a good one) is made up of a lot of components, from the tech stack that operates it, through to visual design, the copy etc etc. It’s common for the tech side to be referred to as a “toolchain”…i.e. the whatever’s that are used to build it. At the end of the day it’s a technical box that spits out content over a network.

    What that content is, and how well it’s displayed to a user is what matters imo.

    I don’t think calling it a tool stops it being possible to produce a “unique” result
    and how good that result is will be down to the team or individual that produce it.

    Personally I find it annoying that most sites look the same, probably because I know how they’re built usually and it get’s very boring…but, as pointed out by others, if you know a format works for the business at hand, will give a ROI and stay on budget it’s understandable there’s not too many clients prepared to go on an adventure.

    Digital marketing is another can of worms, and I agree often a con job…don’t know if you can fix that with visual layouts though.

    On the upside I do see some improvements in the look and feel of websites but only in the mobile arena (to keep flogging my favourite horse) which is where the real growth and challenge is for many small businesses.

    #1212735
    Zava Design
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    Greg_M, post: 262953, member: 38207 wrote:
    Point taken on a website just being a tool (with a specific target/purpose in mind), but I do enjoy seeing the edges “pushed” a bit so interface design does evolve and hopefully improve the user experience.
    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:

    Greg_M, post: 262960, member: 38207 wrote:
    A website today (a good one) is made up of a lot of components, from the tech stack that operates it, through to visual design, the copy etc etc. It’s common for the tech side to be referred to as a “toolchain”…i.e. the whatever’s that are used to build it. At the end of the day it’s a technical box that spits out content over a network.

    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
    – UX
    – Performance (server, SEO, cross-broswer, cross-device)
    – Copywriting
    …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.

    #1212736
    El Arish Tropical Exotics
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    It’s a tool.

    I’ve been doing eccommerce since 2004 and on website #4. Last website was far prettier, this one has doubled my business because it offers a more seamless user experience for customers and better under the bonnet stuff for me.

    I do a lot of shopping online and if I have to search for shipping info or about us I’m annoyed. In my industry a lot of tech and twitter savvy millennials are putting together glossy on trend sites but are often missing the nuts and bolts like easy to find shipping, returns policy, ABN, etc. Evocative is great but it’s gotta come with information.

    My website is my storefront but if no one can find the front door and the cashiers are using an abacus it doesn’t matter how pretty my signage is.

    #1212737
    Greg_M
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    Zava Design, post: 262965, member: 34615 wrote:
    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
    – UX
    – Performance (server, SEO, cross-broswer, cross-device)
    – Copywriting
    …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.

    My annoyance with similarity goes beyond pretty.

    For instance the number of businesses that surprisingly need a 3 column spread below a header with no more than about 20? words of copy per column….I wouldn’t argue that’s a well proven formula but it’s even more predicable than the old newspaper formats. OK it works, but it is boring.

    I’ve become a big fan of Jen Simmons whose a designer advocate for Mozilla , through her videos on using CSS grid and other design ideas…she seems to be able to do “different” without too much drama.

    #1212738
    Zava Design
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    Many designers can do “different” without too much drama, we all have our personal projects we do for fun ;) (and/or to learn). It does not mean that’s the best path forward to achieve the business objectives for a particular client, which should be first and foremost (ie, form should follow function).

    Even Jen Simmons has acknowledged that in her presentations. ;)

    The boundaries are still being pushed, just many of those working with small businesses won’t neccesarily see much of that as they don’t have the budget/time to “try” things that may only have a small chance of working, or to engage with user studies that can identify if some new idea would be worthwhile pursuing.

    And “CSS Grid”, once it’s more widely used, will also encourage breaking out of the restrictions that CSS has placed on layouts previously. But again, this has to follow a well thought out business/usabaility objective to do so, whether any of us like that or not.

    If you want “creative”, here’s a decent site to see what’s happening at the “bleeding” edge: https://thefwa.com

    You might notice not everything’s web based… something else that is changing, that line between “web” and “real world”, which is where the boundaries are really being pushed at the moment.

    Anyway, simply trying to shed some light on “why”, which was the original question asked. ;)

    #1212739
    Greg_M
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    Yes, the objective should be what’s the right thing for the problem/business at hand.

    I find the fact that the edge of what’s a website and “something” else is the most exiting bit of what’s happening today. One of those areas is the blurring of what’s web and what’s “native” in the mobile space.

    I recently started going down the track of building native mobile apps (a very steep learning curve for me)…only to find that stuff like deep linking from web based properties can make a native app turn up in SE results and be almost seamlessly integrated into the user experience..which opens up a whole can of worms as to what you can present to the user. Add in what’s happening with AI and big data crunching and the increasing expectations of users, and it’s going to become an even more competitive space for small business to get traction in (imo).

    Also the “tools” for making it all happen are expanding/evolving at an exponential rate. It’s not that long ago we were arguing about whether responsive design was really a “thing”. Turns out that was just a starting point. I’m now coming to grips with stuff like code splitting, lazy loading, deferred asynchronous JavaScript, hundreds of Node tools bundled into specialist build tools, etc etc, before you even mention content and layout.

    Apart from something pretty basic, or using a specialist service (Shopify etc) it’s getting way beyond what the DIY’er can achieve easily imo.

    #1212740
    Zava Design
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    Greg_M, post: 262976, member: 38207 wrote:
    I’m now coming to grips with stuff like code splitting, lazy loading, deferred asynchronous JavaScript, hundreds of Node tools bundled into specialist build tools, etc etc, before you even mention content and layout.
    And THIS (and far more) is where much of the “exicting” stuff is happening with digital, interfaces & otherwise, even if it may not seem that exciting for many… but when you can do what you need to do easier and easier THEN you will notice, even if not consciously sometimes because it happens little by little over many years…

    Of course, there are some of us looking to move away from this altogether after so many years on the coal face & have a less connected life, but that’s another story for another time… ;)

    #1212741
    Greg_M
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    Zava Design, post: 262977, member: 34615 wrote:
    And THIS (and far more) is where much of the “exicting” stuff is happening with digital, interfaces & otherwise, even if it may not seem that exciting for many… but when you can do what you need to do easier and easier THEN you will notice, even if not consciously sometimes because it happens little by little over many years…

    Of course, there are some of us looking to move away from this altogether after so many years on the coal face & have a less connected life, but that’s another story for another time… ;)

    I guess I’m in the happy place where I can just play with it all and not worry about clients…so I guess I’m already pretty disconnected in many ways.

    The problem is, it’s getting harder to stay disconnected and deal with the world around you. Understanding how some of it works does help though.

    I’m also finding more and more common folk really struggling and disadvantaged by the digital world and it’s demands. One reason I stay somewhat connected is I seem to spend a lot of my time bailing these folk out.

    I’m 66 in a couple of weeks, according to the stats I should be useless to anyone by now…I wish, then I could just go fishing and play with my stone walls :)

    #1212742
    Zava Design
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    I’m looking to start brewing beer a little more seriously… ;)

    #1212743
    Zava Design
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    Something slightly relevant to this thread (and hopefully illustrates a little some of what has been discussed previouisly): I just got an email from Tripadvisor, promoting the “all new Tripadvisor”, the launch of their new site.

    Now this is obviously an organisation with a LOT of money, so would have spent a LOT of time on the initial research, scoping & planning, would have gone through dozens of UI iterations, conducted internal usability testing …etc.

    But the visual design isn’t anything groundbreaking… their focus has been on making it as use friendly as possible, allowing their users to find and do what they need to find and do, without being slowed down by flashing lights or similar…

    They do seem to have gone for a social media type style, which is quite interesting if – again – unoriginal. Yet pretty sure it would have been based on a TONNE of research and user input. Which, as much as some of us may want “sexier” websites, in the end what their users want is the most important objective for any website to achieve.

    #1212744
    bb1
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    Zava Design, post: 262995, member: 34615 wrote:
    Now this is obviously an organisation with a LOT of money, so would have spent a LOT of time on the initial research, scoping & planning, would have gone through dozens of UI iterations, conducted internal usability testing …etc.

    .
    Having worked in a previous life for large organisation with user facing interfaces, I would say that this is a very bold assumption to have made, you are most likely right on the lot of money comment, but I would like to see the project plans on the rest, you may be surprised, that a lot of organisations don’t consult or want to talk to their users..

    Having also spoken to a very senior person in another organisation with customer facing websites, which I thought from a user perspective was hopeless (still is), their initial research and UI, was based on a handful of their staffs opinions (they were also customers), and testing, nothing to do with real world customers.

    #1212745
    Zava Design
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    Well I can only write as someone that has been involved from the digital agency side building these types of web presences for numerous large organisations/household names ;) … if they didn’t do it I would be VERY surprised, I certainly wouldn’t regard it as the “norm” with something of this scale, but you’re right anything is possible.

    #1212746
    El Arish Tropical Exotics
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    Zava Design, post: 262995, member: 34615 wrote:
    Something slightly relevant to this thread (and hopefully illustrates a little some of what has been discussed previouisly): I just got an email from Tripadvisor, promoting the “all new Tripadvisor”, the launch of their new site.

    Now this is obviously an organisation with a LOT of money, so would have spent a LOT of time on the initial research, scoping & planning, would have gone through dozens of UI iterations, conducted internal usability testing …etc.

    But the visual design isn’t anything groundbreaking… their focus has been on making it as use friendly as possible, allowing their users to find and do what they need to find and do, without being slowed down by flashing lights or similar…

    They do seem to have gone for a social media type style, which is quite interesting if – again – unoriginal. Yet pretty sure it would have been based on a TONNE of research and user input. Which, as much as some of us may want “sexier” websites, in the end what their users want is the most important objective for any website to achieve.

    “TripAdvisor is poised to disrupt the travel industry once again as we create a more personalized and connected community,” TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer said in a statement. “The new TripAdvisor is the one travel site that brings together social-assistive tools, amazing content, and our existing booking capabilities to merge the joy of planning and discovery together into a single experience.”

    Spot on Zava. It is moving toward a social media experience with “community” one of the key focuses. You can now use TripAdvisor to plan your entire trip and connect outside of TripAdvisor.
    There was another thread centered on Facebook changes and the move to communities as well. I think we should all take note of the shift towards interactive tools centered around user experience rather than visuals. I think that’s where bang for buck lies when designing a website.

    #1212747
    Greg_M
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    El Arish Tropical Exotics, post: 263028, member: 6734 wrote:
    “TripAdvisor is poised to disrupt the travel industry once again as we create a more personalized and connected community,” TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer said in a statement. “The new TripAdvisor is the one travel site that brings together social-assistive tools, amazing content, and our existing booking capabilities to merge the joy of planning and discovery together into a single experience.”

    Spot on Zava. It is moving toward a social media experience with “community” one of the key focuses. You can now use TripAdvisor to plan your entire trip and connect outside of TripAdvisor.
    There was another thread centered on Facebook changes and the move to communities as well. I think we should all take note of the shift towards interactive tools centered around user experience rather than visuals. I think that’s where bang for buck lies when designing a website.

    I think what your seeing with TripAdvisor is just the start. Consumer expectations of performance, functionality and the ability move seamlessly in and out of apps/social etc on mobile, will push many conventional web sites into oblivion.

    Googles (and others I guess) working hard developing API’s that will virtually merge web apps with native apps.

    I’m now primarily using Google Firebase for developing anything web based and shortly for native mobile stuff. A quick look at what they’re offering and you’ll see the sort of flexibility and tools that are now available (and expanding) to developers.

    That seamless experience that TripAdviser is offering will become the norm for many other businesses too, imo.

    And you’re right, the consumer experience is everything, especially on mobile.

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