Ugly websites can make more money

Posted by Muslim on Thursday, September 1, 2011

Often when people are developing websites, they want the best design and layout and it is a natural impulse to develop the nicest looking website possible. Interestingly though, the prettiest websites do not always make the most money. 

Pretty websites 

Visually appealing websites are often the goal of website developers. Well designed websites help add a professional air and credibility to a website. This helps especially when you are trying to sell a product or sell a service. 

Visually well designed websites can also create a path for the eye of the visitor to the desired action or outcome. Encouraging them to take the action you want is usually accomplished through a combination of layout, color and text. A/B testing or eye tracking studies can help optimize such designs. 

Ugly websites 

A number of times when developing websites I have run across situations where a website makes money and when I further optimize or style the website, I end up making a lot less money. I have read about this and talked to other developers about the same phenomenon. 

In my experience, this happens with the pay per click (ppc) revenue model rather than other revenue models and it seems this matches other peoples experiences. 

It is possible that ugly websites seem unfinished and communicate to the visitor consciously or subconsciously that these websites are not the final destination. This in turn probably encourages them to click on ppc links to seek a better alternative result. 

Leave an ugly website alone 

Others have reported leaving websites alone, often for several years and discovering that they make good money despite outdated or unfinished design. Attempts to renovate these sites seems to reduce revenue and they just seem to do better when left alone. 

If you are going to change the design or layout of a website that is already making money, then testing the new design before fully implementing it is very important. 

Testing new website design and layout through A/B testing 

But how do you go about testing such design changes? The best way is through A/B testing. A/B testing is often ignored by website developers and thought of as a rich man’s toy. Nothing could be further from the truth and I will discuss how you can use A/B testing in a later post. 

What to do with an ugly website? 

Ugly websites can be left alone to continue to make money. Security updates to software should be done of course. Alternatively if you have to change the design or layout, you should also think about changing the revenue model away from ppc or have a mixed revenue model. But either way, experience has taught me that ugly websites are not necessarily bad websites. 
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