Design: Hot or Not?

Written by - 24/03/2017

What makes a ‘good’ website?

If you’ve ever found yourself asking that exact question, then you’ve come to the right place. Is it a luxurious design that will make you fall head over heels? Or is it a site that may not have the aesthetics quite right, but has amazing functionality & a magical user experience? Quite simply, it’s both. A hot website is going to have an impressive design, free-flowing functionality, quality user experience and content worthy of a Pulitzer. But If that’s what makes something hot, what makes it ‘not’? Quite simply, it’s the opposite.

So, what’s hot?

I could spend an age going through all the hot and literally freezing websites that are around. But to keep this simple, I’ll pick out the very best, and the downright worst.

Looking at what’s hot, I don’t think anyone, (not even those competitors at Samsung or Windows) can say Apple’s website is not lit. I may have raved about before in a previous post, but it truly is glorious, just take a look at the homepage.

In truth, the layout of this is generic, one big hero image and four Call To Action boxes. The designing of these, however, is immaculate. They’re clean, considered and on-brand. You can clearly see how much Apple put into making themselves look like the best in the market, reflecting their own products, and you get out what you put in. This is a prime example of how designed content and imagery can really enhance a website and captivate a user. After all, with a site like Apple’s, the aim is to sell the products, with imagery like this, they’re going to.

Apple has potentially the best branding in the world. Just about everyone knows of them. This allows them to drop any wording from their logo and just go with the apple symbol, saving space and simplifying the design. Apple uses a sans serif and legible typeface, along with a neutral colour palette. For those who are fans of minimalist design, this is the place to look. Apple uses it to great effect by adding colour and excitement throughout their imagery.

What else is burning bright?

My next hot website could divide opinion from a design perspective. However, from a usability and functionality point of view, I’d quite happily argue my point away. It was only fairly recently I came across the eCommerce website

I think what really sets this site on fire is its disregard to standard eCommerce conventions, Cotton Bureau have broken the mould. If you look at their product page as an example you might be surprised by the size of buttons and drop-downs, but they’re eye-catching and obvious, which they need to be and this potentially boosts the chance of a conversion. They’ve stripped out all of the excess kerfuffle and got straight to the point, making the purchasing process a whole lot easier and less of a worry.

Hit counters and timers, a thing of the past, before the start of the century, dated, old and what’s the point? Cotton Bureau have reinvented these features into a new widget that sits alongside their products. It’s informative, functioning and fun. Having these stats simply as text is going to look boring and have a user questioning your existence.

We expect most e-commerce sites to have visible menus and potentially a mega menu. Cotton Bureau have a simple side menu that slides in and pushes the rest of the design to the right, ensuring a product is not hidden behind it.

This menu itself is simple and to the point, there are no drop downs. In fact, the information architecture of this e-commerce site takes a rather different approach. All products feature on the same shop listing but can be filtered by two tags, the clothing and age of the product. However, this only works due to the limited number of products they stock at any one time, but this is a nice unique feature.

Moving on, high-end car manufacturers also have smokin’ websites. Rolls Royce, Land Rover and Maserati all have nice websites. But for now, I’m going to take a look at the Lamborghini site. Slick, stylish, sexy, their cars and their website go hand in hand with one another.

You arrive on their homepage and are greeted by a slider that has clearly been given some design thought, with the image montage and diagonal cuts. The slider also contains a video, and the inclusion of videos in place of a hero image appears to be growing in popularity. The menu itself is a sticky menu, and is simple, but the imagery and image treatment really makes this site stands out. I mean, why do images have to be square?

This image and text segment a little way down the homepage is so slick and unique, and ultimately this suits the brand. The ‘Z’ pattern layout approach has been revolutionised. Saying this is unique links straight in with Apple and Cotton Bureau. The very best websites are unique with custom designs and investment into content.

So what’s keeping the Penguins company?

I used ‘lit’ to describe the hot websites, and it’s only fair to say these sites are frosty. Poor website design and content can ruin a business, deterring users and painting your business in a bad image.

James Bond, the best agent known to man, unless you’re a Bourne fan. There’s a museum in Sweden all about him, but their website does not do him justice.

I think the most appropriate description for this website is ‘dated’, and that is what it is. Maybe in the early 1990’s, this site would have fitted right in, but web design has moved on. This isn’t a classic DB5 that people still want to look at, this site needs upgrading to the DB10 model for sure. It uses a default serif typeface, uses old images and the hyperlinks are still blue and underlined, I thought we had moved on from those…

While Cotton Bureau have a really nice e-commerce site, Arngren are at the other end of the scale, just take a look at it below.

First things first, what even is this? It’s an eCommerce site selling vehicles by the looks of it, apart from the odd random product chucked in. This is not how you sell products. The menu is shambolic down the left side of the page with small type and multicoloured lists, it is going to leave you confused.

Grids are a great way to set our product listings, I’m not sure you can call this a grid. Products are randomly displayed all over the place and there is nothing eye catching, no call to actions or anything you would expect from an e-commerce site. It may be dated, but even in Medieval times they would have struggled to decipher this.

This next one can also be described as ‘dated’. has rainbow colours in the background, some fancy clipart and a flying bird that gives you all the information required to see that this site hasn’t been updated in awhile.

To make matters worse the background is animated and could potentially leave you feeling sick. It’s just not nice to look at. Despite this, they do get their message across with a simple sans serif type at an appropriate size, although even this could be considered hard to read.

Hot ‘N’ Cold

Websites can also be both hot and cold. For instance, you may find one with an amazing design but poor functionality. However, it is unusual to find a business whose online presence is Hot N’ Cold. Take BMW for example, their USA site is top of the range, but their UK site, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

This is the top of the BMW USA homepage. There is nothing to dislike about this, like Apple, the image content does all the work and makes a site with appealing aesthetics. The imagery defines the brand and the layout itself is simple, yet really user friendly. In terms of functionality too the site has some really nice and subtle interactions, hover states and the like.

Now look at the UK site.

The UK site ‘is not’ BMW, and is the opposite of the USA site. Literally, the opposite, the logo sits on the other side of the header. The imagery is still good, as BMW have had their photos professionally composed and refined but the actual design and information architecture of the site is rather poor. The whole site feels dated and perhaps this is the only problem that’s putting it at the cold end of the thermometer. It’s just difficult to understand why this website is so freezing. With the resources BMW have got they could easily duplicate their site and just amend the content to suit the region and I’d imagine this could be done on a budget less than a price of their car.
Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you’ve now got an idea of what makes a website hot or not. It’s a combination of design layout, branding, imagery, user experience and functionality. If you’re struggling to hit the sweet spot to a hot website, give us a call and we could help to improve your site design, functionality and user experience. It’s what we do best.