Wisdom of the crowd

16May08

I’m often surprised at how effective the average person can be at picking the “better” of two designs, or saying which colors or fonts look “right” and “wrong”. As others have written before, the typical individual probably has no idea why they like a specific design approach. However, this doesn’t stop them from providing valuable guidance about whether the design is effective overall.

Generalizing this a bit, virtually everyone should be able to intuit whether a piece of communication is effective or not. In fact, we do this all the time, like when we decide if a new ad or product package looks attractive and credible enough to warrant our attention. If it looks boring or sloppy, we’ll probably focus our energies elsewhere.

With all that said, I’m baffled by how easily the average person is fooled by sloppy websites. People just don’t seem to care about hideous designs, spammy text, and typos all over the place. It’s almost like the standards for what’s credible are tossed out the window on the web, at least for the average user.

I’ve seen this behavior in both consumer and business-focused markets. Many customers just don’t make the connection between a sloppy website and a sloppy product. Frankly, it makes you wonder if all the effort to produce a high-quality website is worth it. After all, most people don’t know the difference.

If we consider a longer time horizon, though, the most successful sites tend to be those that are well-designed and maintained. Why might this be? My best guess is that the higher-quality products offered by the higher-quality sites tend to create happier customers over time, which leads to more success in the marketplace. In other words, the sloppy, spammy, chop shop approach to web design usually loses in the long run.



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