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Never Make a Beautiful Website

Posted on 3.31.2014

American vocalist Jimmy Soul, best remembered for his 1963 hit single “If You Wanna Be Happy,” was in great part the inspiration for this issue’s feature article.

Why? Well, despite the commonly held belief that it’s just “better” to have an attractive, beautiful website, ’ol Jimmy’s lesson also applies to the lives of digital designers and Internet professionals. As you’ll soon see, in many ways, Jimmy was very ahead of his time (even though he wasn’t speaking about website design at all).

Mr. Soul elegantly stated that “A pretty woman makes her husband look small, and very often causes his downfall. As soon as he marries her, then she starts to do the things that will break his heart.”

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While an attractive, edgy and trendy website will appeal artistically to users, beauty fades. As soon as a website is published, however, it’s already out of date (particularly troublesome as many redesigns can take months to complete). The reason beautiful women and websites break hearts (men too, of course) is because we tend to invest so much in them initially (emotionally and financially) that the return over time is far lower than expected.

Make no mistake; the goal shouldn’t be for an unattractive website. Perhaps we need to turn to Mr. Soul for some additional clarification. “But if you make an ugly woman your wife, you’ll be happy for the rest of your life, An ugly woman cooks her meals on time, She’ll always give you peace of mind.”

I’m not sure how much peace of mind you could have with an ugly wife/husband (or website), but many of today’s most attractive digital destinations are burdened with serious and significant problems. For example, parallax scrolling websites are notoriously challenging for search engines to index, and websites with numerous third-party integrations can be mind-numbingly slow. A simpler website, however, could give you peace of mind, as well as faster loading, clearer paths to conversion and fewer distractions.

Once again, we need some more guidance from Jimmy. “Don’t let your friends say you have no taste. Go ahead and marry anyway. Though her face is ugly, her eyes don’t match, take it from me she’s a better catch.”

Today, it is incredibly easy to develop a website without any programming knowledge or genuine design experience. Beautiful, complex websites are challenging to scale — in many ways, a simpler website affords the opportunity to evolve and deepen the relationship you have with website visitors (because there is less to interfere with the user experience). While I’m far from an advocate of ugly women, men or websites, Jimmy Soul shares an important lesson. Perhaps there is value in simplicity, value in the ability to understand the consumer experience and scale and grow it, and value in the ability to improve and evolve with time.

“If you want to be happy for the rest of your digital life, don’t focus on making a beautiful website — focus on creating a website that is connected and true to the user experience.”

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