Plain vs Fancy Web Design: Which one works best for a small business?

Ugly Website Design
Does your website have to look impressive to get results?

“Can a ‘plain’ website out perform a prettier one?”

If you own a small business site then you have probably gotten sales pitches like this in your email inbox before:

“Hello, my name is {blank} and I wanted to reach out and ask if there is anything that you would like to change about your website?

I am a web developer with {blank} and my team can do just about anything you can imagine. My forte is helping clients get the look and feel they want out of their websites as well as making sure they can be found online.”

Sounds like a good deal right? Get an impressive looking website, and get be found online.

Yet, we all know this is not the complete truth.

Almost any good web designer can help you get a better “look and feel” for your current website.

Basically they are saying that they can turn any “ugly” or “so-so” looking website design into something that is prettier and more impressive.

But the issue is this:

What does the “appearance” of your website have to do with it bringing in more new business or getting more customers?

As a quote attributed to Henry Ford says — ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’

In our case switch out faster for prettier or fancier.

So what does the “look or feel” of a website have to do with persuading more people to buy from you?

After all if your website is not butt-ugly, is viewable on mobile devices and has good SEO (search engine optimization) like the right keywords, meta tags, and easy to navigate page formatting, then a simple lead gen web design in my experience will work just as well.

As a web marketing specialist, I have strong opinions about what works and what doesn’t  in web design when it comes to producing results (getting more customers).

I also know that many web designers have some very strong opinions about what looks good and what doesn’t when it comes to small business web design.

In this article, I’m going to share with you, my side of the argument…

A Pretty Website Doesn’t Do Squat for Your Business… If It Does Bring in Leads or In-Store Traffic


Why a Fancy Website Won’t Help Improve Your Sales As Much As You Might hope

Check out this quote…

“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function.
This is the law.

~ Louis Sullivan, Architect 1896

Now Louie has been misquoted probably a million times since 1896. The most infamous misquote is “form follows function”.

No matter how you say it, his point was that the shape or the appearance of a a thing should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.

If the success of website were a simple matter of beauty and design then the concept of “build it and they will come” would work.

Fancy websites would automatically generate a steady stream of free organic traffic, draw in leads and help make sales for its owners.

Unfortunately, we all know this is not true.

A good web designer can create a  great-looking website – maybe even a award-winning website.



And by Gawd, it will be so impressive that just about everyone in your business group will rave about it — and be jealous.

A cool-looking website will win you a lot Facebook praise and a lot ‘you rock!’ from friends and family …

But it probably won’t get you any more new business and it might even sink in the search engines.

I know…since it happen several times.

Pretty does not mean profit-making.

This is because when a web visitor comes to your website, they are more than likely looking for information.

Information about you and what you can do to help them fix their problems.

Of course they look at your site but it’s like looking at a movie star or celebrity on TV – sure they look hot but just how much help would they be in dragging home the groceries or helping out with the kids?

People are looking for easy-to-find, easy-to-read, easy-to-understand information that helps them make better buying decisions and have a  more comfortable life.

This is serious business to your customers.

Anything else including your website’s appearance doesn’t mean diddly squat to them, in the long run.

Now don’t get me wrong. Good web design sets the stage. Branding and visual appearance are basically about personality.

Say you are selling upscale designer women’s wear. Your website must set the stage properly for the woman who wants to look her best or is interested in fashion.

So your web design will naturally look fancy.

On the other hand, if you sell lawn and grass cutting services for small businesses or local commercial property owners, an over-the-top design says you are “too expensive”.

This kind of design might even irritate enough them that them end up clicking away – leaving your site and never to return.

So the most important factor in a successful website design is this:

it’s style (plain or fancy) must follow it function (being a information hub for a specific target audience).

This is why the majority of the ‘new and faster’ sites that I see small businesses get are often just better looking versions of their old website.

Everything is still the same under the hood… all great-looking graphics but not enough information for visitors to make a buying decision – Why this? Why you? Why contact you?

As I mentioned, I’m not ‘anti-pretty’. I have made some very nice-looking websites for my clients >

But as I was saying, while I like a pretty website as much as anyone, but I like a ‘pretty profitable’ one even better.


Got a different opinion? Go here to drop me a line and let me know what you think…