Why do web designers create ugly sites for clients?

Some professional web design companies create some ugly websites for clients. I understand that the clients may not understand what a good site looks like, and are happy with mediocre - but shouldn't the designer/developer know better?

Top voted answer
Ivan Teh

Ivan Teh, Director at

Top 30% Web Development

It would depend on the clients objectives and goals.

Some websites may look fantastic but doesn't convert. High converting websites usually substitute design aspects for more leads.

Charlene Walker

Charlene Walker, CEO at

High converting websites should have good design that produce more leads - that the whole idea of design. A professional designer is trained to communicate advertising & marketing thru design. Unfortunately there are a lot of people calling themselves designers but have no formal qualifications and / or experience and can't design1

John Eustace

John Eustace, Principal / Communications and Media Strategist at Bells and Whistles Marketing Pty Ltd

Beauty is (for the most part), in the eye of the beholder, as is ugly! The truth is that a significant proportion of individuals and companies that call themselves “Web Designers” do not have a creative done in their body, nor any real appreciation of fundamental design concepts. In their vernacular ‘web design’ does not extend beyond wire-frame template selection and some basic code manipulation to incorporate their client’s logo and colour scheme. So what you obviously consider ‘ugly’ Richard is not really a conscious design flaw but simply the lack of any creative process being applied to the site’s visual layout. It is true that most people rarely come into contact with the good looks of a well-designed website as the majority of sites they encounter conform to a pretty basic and unimaginative look. In defence of the few true and talented web designers out there, it is invariably the constraints imposed by their clients, both resources, budget and often a crap brief that determine the eventual outcome.

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"Design is a process, not decoration".

Or the old Modernist mantra, "Form follows function". A website needs intuitive navigation or the attention deficient viewer leaves - "bounce rate".

What is more of a concern is the blandness of frameworks like Bootstrap and flat graphics that have sweep through the internet. This may be influenced by tighter budgets and the repression with "design by Google search". I hear it so many times, a client will bring up a bunch of out dated website they searched and convince themselves that's design. So the designer just relents, takes the money and exits, stage left. Over time this does wear thin and one gives up arguing their expert viewpoint, or they loose the project. So the industry then creates a pool of broken creatives and simulators.

You might also say it is the loss of craft in an industry. There is little to no budget for research or concept development. The trend is to leave this off invoices because creative scares the hell out of business decision makers.

The ideal outcome comes from an inclusive process that includes the industry knowledge of the client and the respect for the expertise of the design practitioner. The ideal design process is a partnership. A process focused on the communication problem, not the outcome. Anyway, that's in an ideal world.

An "ugly" outcome is the fault of the designer, and the client.

Steven Freeman

Steven Freeman at

Top 10% Web Development

Many call themselves web designers but do not understand the fundamentals of what makes a brilliant design to suit the given client.

Yes design is subjective, but unfortunately too many designers are charging clients for something which is way of the mark to clients that do not know otherwise (but not their fault as they are not meant to be the experts).

As anyone can be a web designer, authority on this service comes with no official accreditation or certification.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I think that overall many clients are unwilling to give designers and/or design agencies the freedom to create something genuinely interesting and unique.

It has been a staple in my professional design career to run into clients that have no design experience, but feel they are perfectly qualified to judge or dictate design. These same clients wouldn't argue with a lawyer, plumber or mechanic, but designers are not respected as a profession in many parts of the world. This perception needs to change.

The best way is to limit who you work with as a client. Remind them they came to you and you want their business to succeed. Sometimes you need to work a client up in phases of what they consider "risk". Innovation and design are both tricky business.

The other issue is many junior or hobbyist designers do not understand how to correctly structure information to create easily consumable content. The structure of the information is just as important (if not more sometimes) than the visual aesthetic.

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