I surf the Internet regularly to pick up the latest trends in web design, pick up tips and generally look for ideas to improve the websites of our customers. Today I came across this site. The 100 Best Websites.
My idea was that this has to be a source of great inspiration to me in temrs of the web design itself as well as great ideas on navigation, style and content. If you take a quick through the first few websites, there is a common factor which becomes immediately and obviously apparent. Content matters much more than style. In the case of sites like Cragslist, the content matters completely and the style, not at all.
Sites like Yahoo, Google and Amazon are either very simple in style or, in the case of Amazon at least, devoid of style. In the case of Yahoo, it is cluttered and messy. But their popularity is undeniable. Further down the list you have other sites such as CNN and London Books whose sites are quite stylish, but nothing to write home about.
The look of the sites although smart is very familiar and contains no surprises. If you did not know their brand names your first impression of these websites would be that they are unremarkable.
It is interesting to note that while a significant number of smaller businesses are competing with Flash and animated content and trying to stand out from the crowd, they are following a strategy that is employed by none or very few of the 100 most successful websites.
So am I trying to say that all that matters is content and we should all stop being worried about the look and colours on our website? Well no I am not and I will explain why.
The big advantage these websites have is that they are created by brands which are already known and trusted (in the main). Small to Medium Enterprises need their websites to make them stand out from the crowd, especially in attracting new business. This reminds us that the websites we create are about content and style, neither of these elements should be ignored.
I have said numerous times on here that people judge the overall look of a website within a split second of seeing it. And what you have to achieve with the style of your website is that when you glance at it there is an immediate and positive impression made by the viewer.
But it does not matter how good your website looks if you have nothing to say once the person starts to read it. Make sure every page on your website loudly and clearly gets over the intended message. You also need to make sure that the navigation is easy to follow so people can find what it is that they are looking for. This is where following layout conventions becomes an essential part of your website. No matter how unique you want it to look, certain conventions must be followed so that it is easy to use.