Is this really the “Leading Java Resource?” There are no less than 13 ads above the fold, 15 company logos, a giant popup and to top it all off, a video that starts automatically. I can’t see a single line of actual content without either closing the gigantic ad or scrolling down. Amazing! Absolutely amazing.
Google – Not poorly designed by any stretch, but minimalistic to say the least.
Tasktoy – Not as well known, but indispensable to me. This one won’t win any design awards anytime soon.
del.icio.us – Again, indispensable and not well designed at all.
Slashdot – Needs no introduction and I don’t think anyone’s going to try to defend the design.
Silverfish Longboarding – The most successful site I’ve personally created and let’s face it, it’s ugly! It’s always bothered me how ugly it is, yet it remains the most popular longboarding site online.
MacRumors – It’s a Mac site! The Mac site I visit the most is poorly designed! I also read ThinkSecret quite a bit, the design isn’t horrible, but it’s not slick either.
The only well designed sites I visit on a semi-regular basis are:
Other non-designed sites include almost every get rich website ever created (and there are a lot and people make money on them), eBay–it’s not exactly ugly, but it’s definitely not going to win any beauty contests any time soon, useit.com – the number one usability site, Craigslist (as Scoble mentioned) and many others.
Of course there are tons of well designed sites that are successful such as everything by 37Signals, Flickr, Technorati, YouTube (arguably) and a million other websites and blogs, but still, the point remans that the sites I visit most (and I’m a web designer) are almost all either under-designed or in some cases, flat out ugly.
What does it mean? I’m not completely sure, but I definitely think that a few conclusions can be drawn:
Design isn’t the most important aspect of a site.
Functionality beats design.
There’s something to be said for the “homemade” look in terms of building trust.
I don’t, however, think that bad design makes a site good. I think that what keeps me coming back to all those poorly designed sites is the feeling that there are some extremely smart people behind them who maybe don’t have time to worry about the design. If they were better designed, I think that if anything, I’d be more likely to visit them.