Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

The designers (should) come in two by two

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If you’ve looked at any startup marketing website (like these templates) over the past year, you’ll have seen the influence of “The Designer”: Full-screen images; Filtered background videos; Slippy-slidey ‘smooth’ scrolling; Apple-like page scrolling; Parallax scrolling; Animation-on-scroll; Single page websites; Motion-sensitive images; Everything that was “above the fold” is now below it. These are all achingly beautiful in their own way, if largely confusing and nausea-inducing.

Have you looked at websites that really sell? Take a look at examples from LeadPages, Unbounce, Instapage etc and they all look pretty ugly by comparison. But don’t pretty designs sell better? No, almost universally: No. Pretty websites are everything a good work of art should be: subtle, nuanced, balanced, mysterious, enticing, emotional. But we don’t want the visitor to gaze in awe at our website. We want them to do something. We want them to SIGN UP, to BUY NOW, or LEARN MORE. We want action. And the best way to get that action is to make it REALLY BLEEDING OBVIOUS what we want them to do. Ugly-obvious. Giant-orange-button-obvious.

So here’s a suggestion. Next time you hire a designer, pair them with someone who has almost no aesthetic ability but knows how to create a site that sells. Slow them down. Hobble them.

It could be a marketing professional, a copywriter, or a product owner. But you’ll need to rough up the edges of that pretty design if you hope to sell anything. You’ll need to chaperon that designer to prevent them going off a merry jaunt down the pretty lane and remind them what this site was supposed to do. Were people supposed to read it? Where they supposed to buy something? Sign up for the mailing list? That’s the focus. The design should support that mission, and do so invisibly without attracting attention to itself. Even design portfolios aren’t really there to show off the designer’s trend-competency, it’s there to get them work. It’s there to get clients to contact them.

Take that beautiful website… and stick a few giant ugly orange buttons on it.