Beware of unusual website design.

11th January 2022

There’s a thing called ‘simulation fluency’, if something feels a little weird or difficult, we assume that it’s less truthful. So if you use a strange font on your website, it may seem that what you’re saying is less truthful than if you use one we’re all used to. 

This could be translated into website design; there are a lot of websites that use the same kind of layout, because they use Shopify templates to sell their product. Whilst this creates a general lack of differentiation in design – and your designers will perhaps rail against that – be wary of going too far away from it. The more we’re used to web-shops looking a certain way, the less certain we’ll be of ones which vary from that look. 

On the other hand, the more closely we replicate the same designs the less likely we are to find one that works well for your typical audience within the context of the purchase they’re making. If we blindly play by the same rules as everyone else, we’re less likely to discover something exceptional. And if we only tweak small things, we can only expect small gains in conversion rate.

Testing is your friend here – use the standard approach as your baseline website, and then test the things which shouldn’t work. Hedge your bets so that even if it fails, it will only fail for a small percentage of customers, and be ready to pull an experiment which isn’t doing well (and there will be a few of them). But when you find one that works it could bring much bigger results than the small tweaks you were making, and you’ll have an approach which stands out from everyone else’s.

Written by Rob Dobson

Rob Dobson has been working in digital and building websites for 20 years. From designing and developing the world’s first internet bank in 1999 (smile.co.uk), he founded Northern Comfort in 2010.

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