Website design and buying decisions
Business or buying decisions based on the beauty of the website are not unheard of. I’ve even read statistics indicating that website design is one of the most important reasons for which people choose one host over another.
That may have something to do with the fact that many of those searching for hosting take things for face value. Most consider that complicated, beautiful, expensive web design is a mark of seriousness and success.
Unfortunately, web design beauty has very little to do with the quality of the hosting service. A nice design basically signals two things: the hosting company knows how a great website looks like and – maybe – was so concerned about it that it did what had to be done to have a great looking site.
Also, what some may regard as exquisite web design others might perceive as pure ugliness. It all comes down to each person’s taste, background and experience, which, needless to say, vary enormously among individuals.
What you see is not necessarily what you get
Nicely designed websites are not necessarily expensive, because they’re not necessarily unique. For instance, most web hosting companies start small, often being a one man show with a reseller account or a cheap dedicated server. While some thought is certainly given to the appearance of the website, the budget for web design is minimal because most of the money are allocated for things directly related to hosting.
A cheap website template is the solution found by most new hosts. Now, you’d think that a cheap template must be screaming “cheap” and be ugly too, but that’s not the case. A cheap template, even under $30, can be quite nice actually.
One odd thing has to be noted: most hosts go for a web design that also has a flash presentation. That supposedly makes the site seem more professional and although this might’ve been true sometime ago, it has become now somewhat of a kitsch, which is also true about those pictures of servers taken from all kinds of angles.
Anyway, those are things that a trained eye can see, but the average customer has no idea that behind what looks like a carefully designed website that lavishly makes use of flash and color and speaks of data centers and backbone connections, can be just a single man trying to make a buck.
Many new hosts buy website templates from places like TemplateMonster.com. I’d suggest to pay that site a visit and take a look at those templates. Get a feel of what those templates look like and try to use that knowledge to your advantage if you can.
Flexing the financial muscle
Some hosts have realized that web design plays a very important role in driving sales, establishing trust, projecting an image of success, branding and other things. That’s why many hosts choose to pay for a breathtaking original website design as soon as they can afford it.
One company that hosts seem to prefer for advanced web design is Ceonex, which may very well be because Ceonex can do more than just simple website design; they can optimize websites to produce a maximum number of sales and various other things. Or at least that’s what Ceonex claims.
Some people have noticed that the websites made by Ceonex are rather similar and, personally, for the hosting companies at least, I feel there’s some truth to this observation. It’s certainly easy to spot that some objects are identical in some of their sites and that can only mean that they “recycle” part of their work.
Nevertheless, a Ceonex made design (which includes marketing studies etc.) often costs about $20,000-$30,000, so a hosting company is sure betting that this will set them apart from the crowd. For you, as a customer, it also shows that hosts can go to great lengths just to project a certain image and gain an edge over the competition.
However, all those money are spend not for the benefit of the client or potential client, but for the benefit of the company. An expensive design basically says: look what we are able to do!.. To maximize sales, I would add. But there’s something else that can be read between the lines: we are here and we plan to be here for a while.
No company will spend tens of thousand of dollars to go out of business the next day. Also, if the company has a history of a few years and is quite successful, it may very well be that the expensive web design was purchased because the company felt almost compelled to reveal its new status.
If you’ve got the money you almost have to move to a bigger house. You might think that’s something only a snob would do, but it’s not really true. Say you know someone who has a lot of money; you expect him/her to have a higher standard of living, otherwise you’d call him/her a cheapskate. It’s just human nature.
No financial muscle to flex, but no eyes to see?
At the opposite pole are the hosts with no budget and basically no idea of how things work on the Internet. However, they insist on having a web based business and not just any business – a hosting business! They decide to spend $0 on web design and build the website on their own or ask a good friend do it for them.
The resulted website is often not just amateurish, it’s down right ugly. A decent person with a bit of Internet knowledge would definitely know better. It’s generally easy to spot clear ugliness or outdated web design if you have a bit of ‘net surfing experience.
A host is supposed to know how the Internet works intimately and also at the surface, so they should have an eye for web design. Rather than having an ugly but original website design, a free template that looks decent should be preferred, in my opinion.
Blatant unprofessional web design shows a lack of professionalism, thoroughness and thoughtfulness in general. If they care so little about their website do you think they care much about server security and other things? I don’t. I’d rather say pass to a good host with an unprofessional website than give him the benefit of a doubt and get burned later. Why? Because there are lots of other hosts out there. As long as there are plenty of hosts to choose from I see no reason to take risks.
They can’t spell either?
It appears that some don’t know how/don’t care to about this either. Mistakes can happen to the best of us, but unreasonably repeated grammar and/or spelling mistakes signal lack of professionalism and even more than that. They’re a sign of carelessness and even lack of respect towards potential customers, both of which I find very dangerous. More often than not, poor web design is complemented (not complimented) by spelling mistakes, which makes it even easier to spot businesses that you wouldn’t want to deal with. We’re so lucky, aren’t we?
So? What to do then?
My opinion is that generally website design is just a marketing related thing. There’s no direct relation between it and the quality of the service. Quality hosting, trustworthiness and quality website design don’t always go hand in hand.
Thus, website design is not a reliable measure of service quality. In fact, I think one should try very hard to not take this factor into account at all, with a big exception: when the design is obviously unprofessional. I expect a decent web design because I think it’s a form of respect towards potential customers and a sign of thoughtfulness, which I like in a host. But that’s it!
To make a hosting decision search for facts instead: Do they deliver what they promise? Are their customers happy? Those are the important things!