Why You Should Judge a Book By Its Cover

Have you ever wondered why the phrase, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” is so common? It’s because everyone does – and when it comes to web design, you should too.

If a website doesn’t care about its design, why would it put any more effort into its content? Think back to the last time you were blindly searching for something on Google and clicked on a few of the top hits. The majority of the time you are brought to a poorly designed website which makes finding what you want very difficult. When the information you are looking for is not the first thing you see on the page the issue becomes: Do you want to spend time scanning the cluttered page in hopes your answer is there?

Take a look at eHow.com as a great (albeit obvious) example of a site that gets you your information fast. Lets take a look how they do this:

  1. Relevant information is at the top of the page
  2. Limited adds/links to other sites
  3. Numbered list for easy readability
  4. Relatively clean design and layout

Say you were searching for javascript error handling. Compare your first impressions of Developer Shed compared to Eloquent JavaScript (the top two Google results).

Intrusive pop-up ad aside, the design and layout of the site would immediately push me to hit the back button in my browser. If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink this may sound familiar. Before even looking extensively at the content I know this is a poor site, but let’s look a little closer at two big issues and find out why that is.

  1. Ad Space – There are so many ads covering the screen that the information is completely lost – plus there is something about the unprofessional look of Google Ads that makes a site look cheap.
  2. Cluttered – Looking at the page it is hard to determine what the important information is. Turns out the information you are most likely looking for is a few scrolls down in a very small font.

It is as though this site is purposely keeping you from finding the content you want. Eloquent JavaScript, the second result on Google, is about as straight forward a site as you can get. Obviously not every site can or should be like that, but as another cliché saying goes, content is king.

Bottom Line

Bottom line is that people do judge a book by its cover, and when it comes to websites maybe more than ever.

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