Last year when I wrote my most popular entry (traffic-wise) Myspace: Is ‘ghetto’ a design choice? I never thought that the idea of ugly design would take such a strong hold within design discussions this year. For some reason no matter where I turn I find an article about MySpace and its ugly designs and the majority of the articles come to the conclusion that the site is successful because it is ugly. Each article seems to cite other major players such as eBay and Craigslist as examples of successful ugly design.
Let’s be honest though and admit that there are two kinds of simple designs that you can produce:
In either case if you are offering what the user wants they will use the site. It never was about the ugliness of a site, it was about its usability, community and a couple of other things. If you really think that the reason Facebook will never reach the membership levels of MySpace because it uses a pretty design then you would be wrong. Facebook has a more targetted audience, doesn’t cater to the music crowd and doesn’t allow the customization of profile pages as much as MySpace does.
Scoble calls it anti-marketing design and it’s great to see someone with no design background or any true interest in design (see I had to see “true interest in design” so I could include myself) breakdown why anti-marketing design trumps good design. According to him I am guessing that WalMart is more successful than Target because their stores are trashier. Not that this quote has that much to do with this entry, but I had to include.
But, back to the anti-marketing design. I think I accidentally fell into this as well. My design is ugly. Anti-marketing. Why? Because I wanted to make it fast. I didnâ€™t choose a pretty font because doing so would have added a little bit of weight to my CSS file. Does this matter? I think it does. I read a LOT of blogs on my cell phone and mine loads WAY faster than many blogs out there.
Classic. Moving on. Wait, I have another one.
Maybe MySpace is kicking bloggingâ€™s behind because most blogs are simply too pretty!
Damn, everytime I try to move on he gives me another one.
If itâ€™s ugly is authentic. Not corporate. It is good. No?
Okay, I am finally done. Doesn’t anyone have any apple-to-apple comparisons between ugly design and good design? In all comparisons it’s easy to pinpoint why ugly may win over good, but is there ever a case where all things are equal and success comes down to the design of the product?
For an even better analysis of this whole “ugly is wonderful” theme, I suggest you read this detailed article over at Disambiguity.