I recently came across a blog post on ugly websites which claimed that design is not all that important and some of the most successful websites on the Internet are in face quite ugly. The four websites that were looked at are: Google, Craigslist, eBay & PlentyOfFish.
I don’t disagree that these web sites are both unattractive and successful, but I do disagree that all businesses can achieve that level of success with a poorly designed web site.
I think it actually depends upon what the functionality of the web site is. Note that none of these companies are actually selling their own product or service. eBay and Craigslist both sell other people’s stuff, Google is a search engine, and PlentyOfFish is an online community. Sure, they are all ugly and highly successful, but their goals are very different from businesses that have products or services to sell.
Businesses need to balance design with well-written content to close the sale. If someone comes to your site and is not impressed with the look of it, it reflects poorly on your company. Likewise, if your site is poorly designed such that they have trouble navigating it, you will probably lose the sale. People are emotional buyers and are visually stimulated. If they like what they see, they will be more enticed to stick around and actually read the content. Sure, in the end, it is the content that closes the deal, but first you have to get your visitors to stay long enough to read it.