In this day and age, with saturation in almost every market and avenue, you’ve got to figure out ways to set yourself and your business apart. I encourage many of the clients I work with to find their unique voice and put a megaphone on it. That fact of the matter is, being unique will nine times out of ten help your business rather than harm it.
Of course, there are ways and places where being too unique can be a hindrance. One of these places, is your website. If you try doing something wildly different, you run the risk of confusing your customers thus limiting your conversions.
In this article, I’m going to look at a few websites where design seemed to go haywire, figure out where they went wrong, and identify what could be fixed.
Just a special warning: I’m going to use some specific examples here and certainly don’t want the designers and businesses behind these sites to think that I’m picking on them. Since this is an area where subjective aesthetics and objective metrics collide, there’s a chance I’ve got it wrong!
5. University of Advancing Technology
Being that they probably graduate plenty of web designers every year (and the fact that both “advancing” and “technology” are in their name), you’d think that the University of Advancing Technology would have a more user-friendly website.
Instead, upon loading, you’re confusingly staring at the face of a young man looking wistfully away while buttons pop in and out. It takes about fifteen to twenty seconds (which can be a killer when it comes to conversions) but the page finally loads in full and the design is, admittedly, pretty cool.
The problem is, it’s not working.
Even though the navigation menu is unique, it doesn’t function very well. I would consider scaling down and making the navigation static as well as making the buttons for the majors larger so to be read more easily.
4. Suzanne Collins Books
Suzanne Collins is the writer behind the beloved Hunger Games Trilogy but, unfortunately, the no doubt boatloads of cash she raked in from the success of the novels didn’t trickle down to her web design.
The splash page is a bit of a mess with a lack of symmetry to any of the graphics and a long scroll down of her list of publications, which are dotted with strange grammar deficiencies and broken links.
The other pages (if you can find them) are a bit clearer and less cluttered but the design is woefully antiquated. To prescribe an update wouldn’t be going far enough. A site like this needs a true overhaul perhaps making it more in line with aesthetics of her ultra-popular novels as well as for added clarity.
3. Yale University School of Art
I get it, artists are supposed to be unique. But you’d think being that you’re at an Ivy League art school, there would a little more attention paid to the design of your website. Maybe it’s a statement?
Either way, there’s no easy way to say this, the site is atrocious. There’s the hallmark of bad site design—a long scroll with a second frame shoehorned in about halfway through—as well as strange gifs and memes and this isn’t to mention the bizarre background image.
A redesign of this site would have to include a better, more intuitive navigation panel and moving the abundance of information on their splash page into separate pages. This would certainly improve Google indexing and crawling as well as help the site pass the eye test.
2. Liberty Van
Perhaps file the site for the Liberty Van under “oddities” more than “unique” as the website seems to be a busy mishmash of political sloganeering as well as a portion of the site dedicated to the breeding of Afghan Hounds. If you have some time to spare, you certainly won’t leave disinterested.
I’m not here to discuss politics (or dog breeding) so we’ll just stick to the basics of site design: it seems like this individual has an interesting story but could better use the space to tell it. Some of the links of the splash page are broken and a well-designed slide show for her images could be an improvement over the expansive list of blue-links-on-a-blue-background.
1. Ling’s Cars
I almost didn’t include Ling’s Cars on this list because I think it might actually be working. I was all set to tear into how the design of the site obscures what’s actually being sold instead of putting the spotlight on it, which, in perhaps any other site, would be a problem. I’m not sure that’s the case here.
If I were to make a suggestion, it would be to remove some of the moving pieces and make it a little easier to navigate. The full breadth of the site is something to behold, but it does take some time to load and remember conversions fall 12% for every second that it takes for your website to load. Likewise, there’s a lot of white space at the bottom of the page using up valuable bandwidth.
Not all of these sites are explicitly trying to sell something but they’re all trying to convey a message and each could benefit from better design to better do just that. If there’s anything we can learn from these unique sites it’s to keep things neat, clean and easy to navigate.