Can your website look too good?

Article read time: 2 minutes

When we’re designing a website, our first priority is always to meet the needs of the client, but there is one requirement that occasionally pops up in a brief that is really hard to swallow:

I don’t want my website to look too good

This stems from an idea that looking good means looking impersonal and expensive.  But this simply isn’t true, because you can look great and remain individual.

But can you look too good?

Well, there are in fact major brands that intentionally make their websites look less stylish as a way of making their proposition look cheap (even if it isn’t).

Here are a couple of examples:

JB Hi-fi

jb hifi

Possibly one of the worst looking brands in the Australia, JB Hi-fi (www.jbhifi.com.au) are a huge electronics retailer that have crafted a brand identity that looks like an indoor market in 1989.  It’s all naff colours, dodgy fonts and flashing gif images.  JB Hi-fi’s shops look like their website, and yet they are hugely successful.

Why does it work?  Because of the power of suggestion.

People flock to JB Hi-fi for cheap deals on home electronics, DVD’s, CD’s and video games, but yet most of the stuff they sell is not actually very cheap (other than a few loss leaders).  What really matters though is that people think it is cheap, andif it looks cheap, then it must be cheap!

And they’re not the only ones using this rather cunning design technique.

Ryanair

Last year my wife was about to book a flight with Ryanair, when I looked at her screen and said, “That can’t be the Ryanair website, it must be a fake.  Don’t put your credit card details in!

It turned out that it was the real Ryanair website (www.ryanair.com), and despite having plenty of money to pay for a stunningly beautiful website design, they have chosen to have a website that looks somewhat cheap and dated.  My initial over-reaction aside, I bet that Ryanair know exactly what that this is no accident.  After all, I don’t think I’m their target customer.  Just like JB Hi-fi, Ryanair is not always the cheapest in its sector, but they manage to maintain a reputation as being the cheapest by ensuring that they always look the cheapest.

Ryanair website design

So, should your website look good or bad?

As a general rule, I think it is safe to say that you should make your website look as good as you possibly can.  After all, your website is often the first point of contact with your brand, and you are asking people to trust you.  You want them to enquire, buy online, or book a room, purely based on the trust earned from that first impression of your website.  The last thing you should worry about is looking too good.  You should be worrying about not looking good enough.

But good design starts with a thorough understanding of the target customer, and beauty is highly subjective, so there may well be some occassions when you need a website that you or I might think looks a bit frightening, but to your target customer looks absolutely stunning!  Whoever your website visitors might be, give them what they want and let them enjoy it!

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