According to the National Federation of Independent Business, a website design costing less than $1,000 is typically created by one person designing and developing with little strategic input. Meanwhile, a site costing $5,000 or more usually means a quality website with more content pages, more strategy regarding effectiveness for the target market, and usually some sort of integration with a third party for data feeds, CRM or Analytics integration e-commerce functionality. But neither quote really guarantees the site design will be any good, or if it even matters. Have you ever noticed that some of the most successful companies have the ugliest websites? Here are a few examples and the reasons why they work.
Creating a loud, busy and even ugly website isn’t always a disaster. Lingscars.com seems to break all the rules with awful color combinations, tacky graphics and the voice of Ling shouting at potential customers looking to lease a car. But so far, Ling’s strategy is working and she leases £3.5 million (just under $5.4 million USD) worth of cars every month.
Ling’s rule-breaking site works because she uses it as a strategy; an attention-grabbing tool to get customers in the door. She then offers them unbelievable deals and customer service to personalize the car leasing experience and stays active on social media. She gives a personal touch and voice to an industry that is known for its lack of personality. If you’re going to make your site look bad, do it with a strategy in mind to attract an audience, generate a buzz and then overload your customers with amazing service.
craigslist (all lower-case)
The old-school bulletin board system known as craigslist looks like it was never updated after its 1995 launch. Yet today it attracts around 50 billion views each month. In today’s terms, that would make this ugly site a viral sensation. Founder Craig Newmark started his popular site as a simple arts and technology events mailing list. The list rapidly grew until it took its current shape.
craigslist is useful and provides users with what they need in a simple and straight-forward platform; no bells and whistles. But it’s more than that: in an interview on Huffington Post Business, Newmark says he believes in quality customer service, treating others like they want to be treated and offer something real. The whole point of his initial mailing list was to give back to the community and offer something others needed. Whether you’re launching an online forum, community bulletin board or online app; focus on giving your customers the service they deserve and treat them as you’d like to be treated. You can do that with a dirt-cheap, simple website instead of spending all your money on a slick design and graphics.
Last year, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway shares spiked to more than $200,000 a piece; however, if anyone unfamiliar with the billion dollar company or Buffett’s investment genius visited the Berkshire Hathaway website would assume it was built in the early days of the Internet when there were no best practices for websites or online marketing. The site has no real logo and consists of links to SEC filings, press releases and annual meeting information.
Berkshire Hathaway focuses on its individual businesses instead of its online presence. Because Berkshire Hathaway invests in a long list of varying businesses, it doesn’t matter what their own website looks like. No one is going to the Berkshire Hathaway site to buy a product. Instead, they go directly to that individual company’s website.
With the three examples above, it might seem like making an ugly website is a new best practice. However, be aware that these examples stand out as good-ugly because they found success where others failed. If you’re building a new website or updating your current website, don’t follow this lead unless you have a solid strategy to go with it. Only invest in trusted website building services if it will impact your business sales, market reach or exposure; otherwise, save your money on something more worthwhile.