Websites really do all look the same?
There are so many different websites that exist in the world. Some of them are related to marketing and design, others to clothes and makeup. Each and every company that wants to enhance their online presence and attract more customers, has a website. Companies invest a good chunk of their budgets in order to make sure that they have an eye-catching and timely design, good graphics, and convenient navigation. However, in the last few years, there appeared many arguments on the topic of similar features that many websites share. People say that nowadays all the existing web pages look somehow the same way. Those who raise the topic pinpoint that websites tend to have similar elements in design, structure, and overall experience.
On one hand, it seems impossible that the existing websites (there are more than a billion of them) can look the same as they all represent different companies, brands, values, and beliefs. They are designed by different people and most probably, target different audiences. So what is it all about?
How can you track similarity?
How can you possibly choose a certain amount of websites to check whether they really look the same or whether those discussions were just random guesses? Among over a billion existing websites, a group of interested people decided to choose some and make their own investigation on the recent trends and confirm or refute the theory of total websites’ similarity.
The chosen websites for the experiment were taken from the list of those that represent main businesses of the US categorized by the capitalization of the market along with some of the websites-nominees of the famous Webby Awards and the sites which were mostly trafficked by Alexa. They all represented the current trends in terms of web design in the corporate sector.
In order to track and compare the visual features of the chosen websites, they checked all the archive images from web pages. On another hand, in order to collect all the required and relevant data for a thorough website comparison, the team ran an automated process for analysis that was supposed to be useful and give an opportunity to get quantitative information.
The team, conducting the comparison, chose a set of measurements that helped them with identifying similar things in the viewed websites. Among those measurements were certain attributes that included web pages layouts, their colors, and some which were automatically received with the help of AI. The team took the measurements of pixel edits in order to compare the site’s layouts and colors. Moreover, they managed to train a model of machine learning in order to compare images and all of the existing attributes. All of these tools are said to help when it comes to tracking and measuring similarity in terms of website styles, however, it is almost impossible to understand which features gave the results.
How did the Internet change?
The team has conducted several comparison studies and has received interesting results. In terms of three main factors such as layout, artificial intelligence attributes and color, all of the considered websites faced massive differences from 2008 until 2010. After 2010, for another 6 years until 2016, the differences in the factors were decreasing, especially in layouts where the percentage of decline reached 30%. According to the findings, all of the studied websites were more or less similar and this trend kept increasing with time, producing less unique material but more alike in one way or another.
After comparing the websites, it was decided to check the existing data and find out the main reasons for such changes. Someone who has ever dealt with creating websites would probably assume that those websites were just copying the other site’s code. However, the studies have shown that the issue was not in the similarity of code but in the software libraries which were massively used. The use of codes has declined while the usage of libraries has become extremely popular.
What are software libraries? They are tools aimed at collecting information from generic code applicable for various tasks which include resizing and fitting everything to use on the mobile phones, creating a menu with options which will be sliding, and many more. The team, who have conducted the initial website comparison, have also looked at the websites which used different libraries and tried to find how similar they looked. Some of them which were created with the use of certain software libraries shared many similarities while others which also used libraries, but different ones, did not have much in common. The reason for that may be in the default options and layouts that are used in the libraries as well as in the pages complexity and customization.
The websites which shared the same scores in terms of similar features looked more different in 2005 than the ones in 2016. The team took two random websites to compare the way they looked – two in 2005 and two in 2016. They found out that in 2005, two chosen sites did look somehow similar but used absolutely different features in web design and implemented each its own layout. Although two websites used the same colors, one of them had a different background and all in all they looked completely different.
Having considered the sites of the year 2016, the team has come to the conclusion that they were actually way too similar. They had the same menu bar, which was placed in the same part of the website and had absolutely identical colors on their pages. On another hand, both sites did not have a lot of text while making great use in terms of monitors with higher resolution.
Where does it take us?
Acting according to trends is, on one hand, an absolutely normal thing. Websites that tend to have more similarities in terms of how they look due to using certain software libraries are most probably striving to be more easy and user-friendly. It means that the usage of popular libraries allows the website creators to come up with a product that is more accessible to larger groups of visitors. They will not need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to find the menu tab or how to change from one page to another. The developers who are into more complicated web designs are aimed at creating web pages for more sophisticated users, targeting people who are into technology and accept unusual presentations. A complicated website might not suit everyone and might result in people closing them and looking for something more understandable and easy. This is why many companies focus on simplicity in order to attract more people and increase conversion.
Another reason for the website’s similarity is more pragmatic. In order to design a page, one needs quite a lot of time and effort, and, in the fast-paced environment, those efforts are not always fully justified. Moreover, complicated designs call for much technical knowledge and experience which not only is difficult to find but tends to be rather expensive. Companies prefer to create easier and more simple websites that will suit most customers and make the overall experience pleasant and less time-consuming.
However, on another hand, huge corporations that are in charge of software libraries that many companies use to create their websites can gain too much power in terms of internet visual aesthetics. While software libraries, being published and made accessible, make it possible for many companies to come up with a website design faster and keep the website code in secret, their principles, on another note, will not be suitable for every single site. The existing principles of design, available in common libraries, might not only make it worse for the brand but also not allow it to deliver the right message to the target audience.
What is required to change?
Whether the company needs to use the popular software library or find an individual developer for more complicated web design, will depend on the list of important factors. First of all, it will all depend on the purpose of a future website, what kind of solutions it will bring to its visitors and the main goal of the brand itself. Secondly, good marketing research will help to determine the targeted audience and help to come up with the right strategy. If the website aims to attract modern and technology-oriented customers, the company might need to think about a custom-made website that grabs attention and makes people stay longer. If the aim is to make it easy and simple for people to navigate the site and find everything they need, a common software library might work.
Some people compare the web page designs with different cars. They say that although all websites might look in a similar way like the cars do, they all actually differ. As cars might have the same function and similar shape, the details are something that makes them stand apart. Every car has its engine and its wheels, but the overall experience is always different. It is the same story with web design. While some websites might look alike, you should look into the details.
Although recent researchers show a lot of similarities among the websites, it is not always an issue that needs to be immediately resolved. If the company’s tactics in terms of creating a website proves to be successful, they should stick to it. Sometimes the brand with the simplest website possible will stand out among those who have invested thousands in developing a sophisticated web page. It is all about individuality and what the brand has to offer and how it communicates with its target audience.
Companies are advised to keep the balance. It is undoubtedly great to have a good, technologically updated website with all the tools and features which correspond with the recent trends, but keeping with the brand’s values and enhancing its presence does not always depend on the website.