Crappy Site Design, Great Content: Is This Poor Social Media Optimization?

Really Ugly DogThe phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been brought to a brand new level on the World Wide Web.

Consider the mindset of your users. A penetratingly ugly website design can negatively impact your site and visitors, despite the fact that there may be great content — and especially if you’re a relatively new player in Internet Marketing.

I’ve encountered a few sites, including those of family members, that have been begging for a good Internet Marketing campaign. And I’d like to help. However, I personally feel that these sites don’t necessarily only call for good marketing. Many of these sites need something else. Upon looking at website design and usability, I realize how these two important elements truly go hand-in-hand with a successful campaign that can really translate traffic into results. In today’s day and age, a successful website needs incoming links, the ability for people to want to talk about your site — and to be acknowledged among peers.

Cameron recently discussed how social media optimization focuses on more of an “on-page” effort which entails “improving the design and usability of the website so that it becomes more compelling to users” [emphasis is mine]. A relatively new site needs more than just good content to be compelling. Design and usability are key.

Upon review of a recent site, a well-esteemed SEO told me that the site was “horrendously ugly” due to a huge clash of colors (particularly with regards to the text on the background, saying “how could anyone read this?”)

The site may be noticed, but will you want to go to it again if it doesn’t meet your expectations for a desirable page? Depending on what you offer and if there are competitors out there that offer the same thing, my inclination leads to “no.” If you’re not going to visit the page again, you’re not going to tell other people about the site either.

All things considered equal, I am of the opinion that more people would be inclined to visit an aesthetically pleasing and usable website with good content over a not-so-pretty site with good content. But further, the aesthetically pleasing website might be preferred even if it has not-so-good content, depending on the circumstances.

Today, where everyone is competing for good copy and content is a tremendous priority for a successful marketing campaign, there will be a lot more equal sites. Ultimately, the desirable site will be determined by the eyes of the viewer (and not necessarily of the reader).

What are your thoughts about this assessment?

3 Comments

  • Techn0tic says:

    As an ex-graphic designer (way back in the mists of time) I do tend to sit up and take notice when I see a beautifully designed site, however these days I’m far more interested in content and tend to rely on A huge collection of RSS feeds to browse the sites I like, only clicking through for the articles that really interest me. In this respect the design of the site is secondary. Having said that, many of the sites that I work on in my day-to-day are focused on marketing and branding where the content has to work in harmony with the design to deliver a key message quickly and draw the visitor in towards the target call to action.

  • Good point. RSS feeds are a savior when avoiding a design but still accessing good content.

    I suppose, then, my question extends to those sites that are not necessarily RSS friendly. Most sites that I would think the “average Joe” visits do not have RSS — plus the average Joe doesn’t even know what RSS is or how to use it. At that point, the issue goes back to a design vs. content issue. If the design is hideous or there are too many pop-up ads or whatever the case may be, despite that great content that he is aiming to access, Joe will likely find another site to visit.

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