Ugly Websites Convert Better, Myth Debunked

Is it true that ugly websites convert better than attractive websites?

I often hear clients, web designers, and SEOs profess that poorly designed, a.k.a ugly websites have higher conversion rates than “pretty websites”. Let’s clear up the smoke and mirrors and debunk this myth once and for all.

By viewing this example of the Top Ten Converting Websites you will notice that these websites range from fairly attractive to very attractive website designs. I will get into why these “Pretty Websites” have higher conversion rates than most ugly websites in a bit.


Courtesy of Melissa Hartfiel on Design Is Important

What is an attractive website?

An attractive website should be a website that integrates form and function in a way that is attractive to your target audience, but also allows them to get down to business unobtrusively.

Not All Ugly Websites Convert

3rd Ugliest Website in the world

In fact most don’t. If it were that easy then we would all be millionaires. There are many dynamics that will determine whether a website will be successful or not regardless of looks. Here are some examples of “Why Ugly Websites” may convert better than attractive websites.

1. You offer a discounted or low cost product or service and your website needs that to reflect how low your prices are. See the example above. Or your price is so low that your users are forced into a poor user experience because they will buy your product anyway, and other high volume e-commerce websites provide a good example of this. If this is the case you can greatly increase your conversions by fine tuning or re-designing your website for a better user experience.

2. Ugly websites are often the result of “content cramming” meaning that a ton of information is crammed into the website “mainly above the fold” thus giving the user many choices for a call to action which will eventually lead to conversions. On the downside you may also be creating a poor user experience which can actually hurt your online sales by creating competition with your loss leaders vs. your best sellers. If you are like me and have a hard time finding your key’s on an unorganized desk or house, then you will begin to understand that by “shotgunning” content all over your homepage or subpages can actually have adverse effects on your entire sales process.

Why Do Pretty Websites Have Low Conversion Rates?

Why do pretty websites have low conversion rates

The number one reason why a pretty website will have a low conversion rate is because of the lack of an effective call to action. Replace or enhance your flashy graphics with a well thought out call to action and you are in business! While good graphic art and photography plays an important role in online marketing, you can expect low returns if your work has no purpose other than looking pretty. In addition the flashy artwork will provide little use for your site visitors, thus creating a negative impact on your online conversions.

In the example above, this website could have a much higher return on investment by providing useful information such as an offer, a price or even SOMETHING that tells me what this website is all about. When I first visited the website above, I was not sure if I was visiting a clothing website for hipsters, a photography website or something else. Turns out this website sells sunglasses and frames, although the random images showed pics of men that were a cross between Zack Galifinakis and the Geico Caveman. For a minute there I thought I had landed on a Car Insurance quote page. With that said, there is nothing more frustrating to a website visitor than making them click on things in order to get to the good stuff. While the website above probably does get conversions, it could do a lot better by doing these three simple things.

  1. Create a user friendly navigation menu (don’t make your users have to click to see it)
  2. Create a compelling call to action that allows users to make a purchase or inquire about a service
  3. Give your logo a tagline or place a short and concise description of what it is that you have to offer

Your Website Does Not Need To Look Ugly To Get High Conversion Rates

Website With High Conversion Rate Example shows perfect examples of attractive websites that have extraordinary conversion rates. Why do these websites break the old stereotype?

1. Call To Action. Good looking websites that have a clear call to action will perform extremely well and have higher conversion rates than unattractive websites selling the same product or service with competitive prices.

2. White Space. Well designed websites are very good at placing important content above the fold in a way that makes it easy to read. Tip, try and not to make your site visitors “zig zag” with their eyes in order to find content. The content should be formatted with good use of white space and consistency that will allow users to systematically skim through your site content in a left to right manner. By structuring your content evenly, you make it easier to read. Take a look at any popular newspaper or magazine and see how the content is formatted.

3. Design for your target audience don’t alienate them. Some online businesses only want to do business with certain demographics while others may want to do business with everyone. For example everyone needs to do their taxes so why not make a website that is user friendly and easy to use for everyone? Some online businesses only want to do business with let’s say high school kids, professionals,  photographers, or wedding brides. Your website’s design and call’s to action need to reflect who you want to do business with and describe what type of business that you are in right from the start. Bottom line, never leave your site visitor’s guessing.


By having a thorough understanding of how website visitors behave, react and do business online, you will have a better understanding of how to build better websites that are not only attractive, but have higher than normal conversion rates.

About Matthew Shuey

I focus on internet marketing, front end web development and social media services for entrepreneurs and startups in the United States. I'm an avid Google+ user and I am easily accessible there. For more information please visit my Google+ Profile

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5 Responses to Ugly Websites Convert Better, Myth Debunked

  1. Great article Matthew!! I laugh every time I hear that comment,”Ugly Websites Convert Better”. The call to action needs to be well thought out and well placed. I still am a journeyman when it comes to websites, but one thing I know is that good looking sites are important.

    • Thanks Randy. I always hear people use this excuse when selling their web design services. It’s pure misinformation given as an excuse to do poor work and get paid high amounts for it. Content is always what sells and if a web designer can figure out how to present that content in a way that gives off a good user experience it will greatly increase conversion rates.

      Bottom line if an poorly designed website converts well, imagine what it could do if it was designed with pin point accuracy. Thanks for commenting brother.

  2. HedgeComber says:

    Really good read, many thanks
    Janie x

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