Why are some ugly websites still popular?

Sites such as Craigslist, Plentyoffish, Newsnow.uk, Drudgereport and WiseGeek are examples of sites that seem to disregard current web design best practices, but that hasn't put millions off from using their services.

What these sites do right:

  • Every click leads the user to where they think they're going to go and users get where they need to go in as few clicks as possible. 
  • There are no overwhelming, complicated or gratuitous graphics that distract from what's needed to drive the conversion.
  • There is limited advertising on all these sites
  • The signup and login processes work seamlessly across devices, apps and mobile
  • These sites focus on their core purpose, whether it's sales or signups, and make the user journey to that super simple.
  • They never 'lose' the user. If the user doesn't complete a subscription form, for instance, they are told where and how to fix it. They're given examples of how to enter data into forms and the language remains friendly and encouraging to reduce anxiety and frustration 
  • The navigation is simple and content is categorised logically 
  • Simple websites are easier and quicker to update because they focus almost purely on conversion as opposed to gimmicky graphics and moving elements
  • Their websites all render perfectly across mobile devices

Now if you add great design to these basics of navigating the user to where you want them to go, you have a win-win situation.