The role of anti-marketing design

At the Northern Voice conference I met Markus Frind, founder of Plentyoffish.com. He’s Google’s #1 Adsense user in Canada. His site is pulling in more than $10,000 per day from Google, he told me, and has millions of passionate users. Tens of millions of page views EVERY DAY. Whew!

What’s the secret to his success? Ugly design. I call it “anti-marketing design.”

Huh?

He says that sites that have ugly designs are well known to pull more revenue, be more sticky, build better brands, and generally be more fun to participate in, than sites with beautiful designs.

Ahh, yet another example of anti-marketing marketing.

He joins a good list. Google. Is it pretty? No. Craig’s List? Pretty? No. MySpace? Pretty? No.

He says he designed his site to be easy to use, fast to load, and uncluttered, but he didn’t pick pretty colors or fonts. He did, however, spend a lot of time learning how search engines indexed their contents.

Why does anti-marketing design work? Well, for one, big companies will never do a site that doesn’t look pretty. Why? Cause of the prevailing belief that great brands need to be beautiful. Look at what corporate branding experts study. Apple. Target. BMW. Everything those guys do is beautiful. Aesthetic. Crafted by committees of ad marketing department experts.

But, go deeper: we’re sick of committee-driven marketing. We don’t believe it. If we ever did. We’ve built a bulls**t filter that filters out well-designed things in a commercial context. We trust things more when they look like they were done for the love of it rather than the sheer commercial value of it. That’s why my Channel 9 videos work. What kind of company committee could come up with something like that? Let some goofy guy with a goofy laugh go around with a cheap camcorder, no lights, no makeup, no editing and record conversations? Fire the guy who came up with that! :-)
Look at Plentyoffish again. It was designed and coded by one guy: Markus. Seriously. One guy did that and is making all that cash. No committees. No experts. Just a guy who wanted to learn to program and did.

Oh, and I love that he picked .NET to code his site. It’s all running in .NET 2.0 and you should hear the praises he has for .NET. I wish I could film him and put him on Channel 9. It’d end all the talk that Windows isn’t scalable, isn’t secure, and can’t keep up a highly trafficed site.

But, back to the anti-marketing design. I think I accidentally fell into this as well. My design is ugly. Anti-marketing. Why? Because I wanted to make it fast. I didn’t choose a pretty font because doing so would have added a little bit of weight to my CSS file. Does this matter? I think it does. I read a LOT of blogs on my cell phone and mine loads WAY faster than many blogs out there.

It’s amazing how few corporate types get that the quality and engineering thought behind your HTML matters more than whether your site is pretty or not.

Maybe MySpace is kicking blogging’s behind because most blogs are simply too pretty!

By the way, his anti-marketing message continues right to his about page.

If it’s ugly is authentic. Not corporate. It is good. No?

519 thoughts on “The role of anti-marketing design

  1. This article is ridiculous the claim that because something is ugly it does well. Check out DateandRate.com just started looks way better than them, probably doesnt make as much money. But im willing to bet in 2 years theyll be bigger than PlentyofFish.com. The fact of the matter is it does matter how your website looks and how its designed. Im sure their income comes from some job or old money that some guy feels like spending on his website. Its all about outcome of advertising dollars and the competition, free dating sites??? How many of them are really out there? I can tell you not alot.. and definitely alot of them arent like the site I told you about(DateandRate.com) so it leaves for little competition until recently. All I have to say is I predict this site will expand faster then POF has thus far with the same amount of time

  2. This article is ridiculous the claim that because something is ugly it does well. Check out DateandRate.com just started looks way better than them, probably doesnt make as much money. But im willing to bet in 2 years theyll be bigger than PlentyofFish.com. The fact of the matter is it does matter how your website looks and how its designed. Im sure their income comes from some job or old money that some guy feels like spending on his website. Its all about outcome of advertising dollars and the competition, free dating sites??? How many of them are really out there? I can tell you not alot.. and definitely alot of them arent like the site I told you about(DateandRate.com) so it leaves for little competition until recently. All I have to say is I predict this site will expand faster then POF has thus far with the same amount of time

  3. yes, simple design is too great for sites because its open time is too few and its better for sites….some of the other sites have too simple but they are popular like that plentyoffish sites.

  4. yes, simple design is too great for sites because its open time is too few and its better for sites….some of the other sites have too simple but they are popular like that plentyoffish sites.

  5. The design isn’t rel event and hurts the site if anything. I heard about it from a friend that it looked bad but its free.

    Its just popular same with craigslist

    google works better the any search.

    get real people

  6. The design isn’t rel event and hurts the site if anything. I heard about it from a friend that it looked bad but its free.

    Its just popular same with craigslist

    google works better the any search.

    get real people

  7. Myspace is popular because any moron can use it and feel accomplished.

    This is complete crap. It is the content and usefulness that pulls the users in. Having a great design is not going to deter users.

  8. Myspace is popular because any moron can use it and feel accomplished.

    This is complete crap. It is the content and usefulness that pulls the users in. Having a great design is not going to deter users.

  9. Hey Scoble, it would be nice to know if you changed your opinion on this one since you changed your design…

  10. Hey Scoble, it would be nice to know if you changed your opinion on this one since you changed your design…

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