If you’ve been spending a lot of time on the internet, you’ve probably already spotted that many websites have started looking very similar to each other. Sure, the logos, color combinations and some brand elements may be different, but other than that, they all look like a variation of the same website.
The main reason why this is happening is the abundance of accessible platforms such as WordPress, where you can create a decent-looking website without the need to take a course in website design. All you need is some time and a little patience, and maybe a hint of creativity. The predefined templates most of these platforms use also provide a good user experience, which is another aspect that makes them so convenient to use.
Over the past decade, web design features and trends have become increasingly uniform, despite advancements in technology. But does this mean brands and designers would benefit from fitting in, or should they find new ways to stand out? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Instead of focusing on whether they should or shouldn’t respect the rules, both brands and designers would benefit more from examining and understanding how every aspect of their website is serving the business in question. It’s not necessarily a matter of what to use and which trends to follow, but rather how everything you do impacts user experience and represents your brand. A reputable web design company will always advise you to find the right balance between pleasing the user and representing your brand and to determine when compromises need to be made.
Why do so many websites look the same?
Just as in fashion, music and all forms of creative expression, one of the main reasons websites look so similar is because of aesthetic trends. This has been the case for the past 25 years, ever since the internet became widely used around the globe. Just try to remember websites back in the 2000s – they all looked quite similar. Sure, one could argue that, back then, there were technical limitations, but there were also ways to make things a tad bit different.
Now, however, you would expect that, with all the technological advancements available, businesses would be able to put the emphasis on creativity and originality. Yet, if we take a look at a few websites from the same niche, chances are we’ll see some that look almost identical.
One of the factors that prompt designers to choose similar styles is wanting to appeal to consumers. Users get accustomed to the layout of a website and tend to gravitate towards websites that provide the same features, mostly out of convenience and because it is something they know how to use.
Another factor is represented by the multitude of website design guides, webinars and tips available online. Because most of these best-practice guides contain the same information, designers who follow them are unknowingly making the internet world weirdly homogenous.
Understand the rules before you can break them
Following trends and rules is not always a bad thing, as they provide users with a familiar feeling and improve UX. Take, for example, eCommerce websites. Usually, the cart icon is placed in the upper right corner, so when users want to check out, they will instinctively go to that section. If they don’t find the cart there, that’s confusing to them.
Before you start thinking of new ways to make your website stand out from the crowd, you must master the basics of some commonly seen design features. The role of these features is not to make every website look the same, but to answer to common user behavior.
- Logo placement: the logo of your brand will usually be placed in the top left corner. The reason is simple – in the western world, people read from left to right, which translates in the way we look at websites as well.
- Navigation: this plays a crucial role in UX design and can make or break a website. Experts advise it is best to use an established navigation bar style, such as horizontal navigation bars, which are used by 88% of websites.
- CTA buttons: call-to-action buttons are very important and need to be placed in a highly visible place so that consumers can see them as fast as possible.
- Layout: it is customary for eCommerce websites to use similar patterns when designing layouts for product pages so that consumers can easily navigate on the website. Photos on the left side, product information on the right, and reviews underneath, similar to how Amazon does it.
What can you do to stand out from the crowd?
Now that you know which rules to follow, it’s time to think of ways to stand out from your competitors. Even if you think that by following the rules above, you are left with little room to express your creativity, hear us out:
- Stay true to your brand: trends will come and go, consumer behavior will change, but your brand identity should always be consistent. Who you are as a brand should reflect on every aspect of your website, and that’s what is going to make it unique.
- Experiment with media: your audience will respond differently to various types of content, so it is up to you to test things out and experiment with media elements that will drive engagement. Using videos, photos, and infographics will help increase revenue and give you a unique way to showcase your brand.
- Offer something extra: one of the best ways to stand out is to give users something they can’t find someplace else. A blog or resources section, where you can post original, well-researched content relevant to your niche will not only capture the audience’s attention but also transform your website into an invaluable tool.
- User experience: not even the most unique website out there can keep its visitors engaged if it does not provide a stellar user experience. Providing your customers with exceptional UX, even if it means doing something extra for them, will win your audience over forever.