If You’re Selling Something – Skip The Ugly

So much discussion lately about websites that perform better if they’re ugly. I won’t post a big long spiel for once (hooray!), but just jot down a few of my own notes:

If you are an adsense focused website, making your site so unattractive and filled as much above the fold as possible with adsense works. Makes sense. Visitors are in such a mad scramble to get away, leave, run, scared, anywhere–as long as it’s off the bleeding eyeball site.

Do webmasters care? No. That’s why I despise adsense and the contextual ad game. It’s all about ugly, stuffing as much advertisement as possible above the fold and confused clicking to gain as many mad scramble click offs as possible. Nice addition to the net–not >(. There’s a reason why I find the phrase Adsense = Webmaster Welfare so appropriate.

Every time I’ve updated and upgraded the look of an affiliate site–my sales and bookmark rates rise.

The site I mentioned last week (Upgrading Affiliate Sites To WordPress) has made 6 sales from 214 unique visitors since the updated look: March 24th. Not too shabby. This forgotten about and left behind affiliate site had a record of 1 or 2 sales a month before the change.

Pretty is one thing, but distraction = no money

You don’t need nor want a jaw dropping beautiful site. If it’s too much, it can be distracting. Just a nice, clean, visually appealing site that’s easy for visitors to move around in and click off to merchants is all you need. None of my sites look sleek and professional, but some show a bit of personality and maybe even a bit fun.

Keep links, banners, distractions to a minimum.

If you’re selling hard cover books, just have links and product descriptions to hard cover books on that page. Maybe a coupon banner thrown in too. If you fill a page with too much ‘other’ stuff, you’re just distracting your visitor from the task at hand: buying a hard cover book.

For me what works best is just having product pictures, links and descriptions. Aside from the site navigation links–that’s all that needs to be on the page to get the job done.

And one final note:

Every click a visitor has to make to get to where they want is an opportunity for your site to get dumped by that visitor. Don’t make it hard for your shoppers to click off to merchants and get your cookies set. The less clicks for navigating – the better. Think of every link presented, every banner, every signup form, etc., as a choice or a decision your visitor has to make. Don’t poop them out :).

PS: I’m not a Super Affiliate. I don’t have 100,000 visitors per month per affiliate site nor hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of commissions a day. All I can do is base my opinion on my own experience and my own numbers. They tell me a clean, visually appealing site performs much better if you’re trying to sell products. Of course – your mileage may vary ;).

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3 thoughts to “If You’re Selling Something – Skip The Ugly”

  1. Interesting article and pointers, Terry. No one can be sure where anything truly started on the ‘Net but I believe the recent “ugly” comment string got started from a report on a personals site, “Plenty of Fish” which some were touting makes $10K per day from Adsense. However, a., no one at POF ever claimed that kind of return from Adsense, they make most of their money from other ad media ads and aff sales.

    b., to call the site “ugly” is (of course a subjective opinion), kind of harsh … it is very clean and has very little ad distractions on the first page. In fact it seems attuned to it’s mission of helping people search for other people …with no ads, membership or ‘artsy’ stuff in the way.

    IMO it is only ‘ugly’ to the art student dropouts who became “web designers” and who sit and make pretty, graphics-heavy screes all day and never run a real web site.

    The real point in this debate is, “Should you streamline your site to drive the vistor to their(your) goal, even when they aren’t sure of their goal?” At $10k a day I think the question’s asked and answered.

  2. The real point in this debate is, “Should you streamline your site to drive the vistor to their(your) goal, even when they aren’t sure of their goal?” At $10k a day I think the question’s asked and answered.

    Awesome statement Dave, I just had to quote that. I think that’s the ticket, keeping the attention and drive flowing in one direction as much as possible.

    IMO it is only ‘ugly’ to the art student dropouts who became “web designers” and who sit and make pretty, graphics-heavy screes all day and never run a real web site.

    I see a couple hundred websites a day (from directory submissions). I’m not an art student or pro-designer. And I think there are some real ugly sites running loose. But I suspect most of that type of site design is purposely created for one thing – scraped and auto-generated content for the benefit of Adsense and the clicks. If not auto generated, it’s definitely all about the adsense.

    Not that all scraped/auto generated content is ugly–I’ve seen some really sleek and beautifully done work too.

    Visitors not hitting the back button as frequently, more page views per visitor, bookmarking, returning and buying–I have to stick with what my own numbers show and so far all stats say clean things up and visual appeal works best. One site of mine had Word Of Mouth kick in after a site design rehaul.

    And the final test for me — ugly merchants vs. ‘ok’ and ‘nice’ merchant sites — ugly is not even in the game :).

    When I get to the traffic levels that POF has, I’ll have better numbers to work with. As I mentioned above, I can only go on what I have so far.

  3. More thoughts:

    Maybe the difference between what I’m experiencing and what POF is experiencing is the site experience itself.

    Shopping traffic has a different expectation than the ‘community’ traffic.

    What I mean is I build sites for shoppers. Not info seekers. Not friend seekers, or date hookups or chat buddies. I build for people who are specifically on the hunt to buy ‘XYZ’.

    If you’re too ‘corporate’ or professional looking, communities probably won’t thrive because of the message that sends (typically corporate aura is: not as open to input or suggestions–two things that community builders/seekers are attracted to).

    If diamond shoppers/seekers hit upon a site that looks too rough or amateur, maybe it’s a trust factor that gets missed (money is on the line).

    Just some thoughts. Comparing a shopper driven site to a community driven site really is talking about two different types of visitor motivations and expectations.

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