Your website is boring. Tailor the UX to reflect your users

The internet is boring thanks to homogenized ux practices. What happened to the crazy weird websites of the 90s? Can we get that energy back?

The internet is boring. Have you noticed that? Thanks to advances in UX, technology, data, and analytics, as well as the removal of the barrier to entry, every website is basically the same now. We praise minimalist, clean, sanitized experiences for their frictionless workflows, and that’s great. But man, I miss a good, weird website. Hell, this website is boring. I am aware, but I have to play the game.

The advent of UX Design ushered in a flood of UI kits, templates, and website builders that offer quick and easy ways to get your website up and in front of customers. I am not knocking this. It’s been great for me and the teams I’ve led. Things like Untitled UI and similar kits allowed us to focus on critical design issues while details like the size and scale of a responsive input are already taken care of. Sadly, my old man’s eyes have noticed the rapid decline of tailored experiences. I’m talking about websites built specifically for a target audience that doesn’t conform to current UI conversions. Basically, websites that do not use a pre-made theme or minimalist UI kit.

The good old days

When I started building websites literally decades ago, I started on a small website called For some odd reason, it was an online retailer that allowed randos like me to host a free site on their servers. I wrote my first line of code and was hooked. I believe it was an image tag:

<img src=”goku.jpg”>

From that moment on, I was a web designer. Paired with my trusted Paintshop Pro, I carved up designs into tables and exported them to Spree, created new websites weekly, and generally geeked out about HTML. Many of my websites were Dragon Ball-themed, and I designed them to appeal to nerds like me. There were countless drop shadow buttons, bevel-bordered layouts, and countless images of yellow-haired anime people screaming like maniacs.

The Classic Space Jam website circa 1996
The Classic Space Jam website circa 1996

The internet was the Wild West. Every website you visited was a unique snowflake occupying its own special corner of the web. This was mainly because there were no standards, templates, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, SEO, UX, or Google Analytics—just a bunch of pioneers figuring it the hell out as they went. Look no further than internet all-star This was what qualified as a Marketing website back in 1996. It rocked. Look at that repeated background image. Check out the planets expertly orbiting the Space Jam logo. My little ass was obsessed with how those planets could sit in a circle around the logo. I more than likely experimented with recreating this page on my own because HOW DID THEY DO IT?

UX for specific someones

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

Every website at the time had nothing but the end user to consider. Designers built experiences that would entice and ultimately capture the attention of a potential customer, viewer, or fan. It was, admittedly, much harder to be found, but if you were, and your website kicked a little ass, you were bookmarked and revisited ad infinitum. Back then, your SEO was Webrings, forums, word of mouth, and chat rooms.

Today, building websites that convert is a process and a science. You must consider not only who you are talking to but also how to phrase things for the robots to parse, the specific types of content the robots like to share, placing navigation items in exactly the right spot, staying ADA compliant, etc. It’s now harder than ever to be found but infinitely easier to create a presence on the net. Thanks to great services like WordPress (which this site runs on), you can reach your audience quickly and with minimal fuss. The downside is that every website resembles every other site, with the logo being the only differentiator. Call it trends, UX standards, analytics, whatever. It’s boring. A homogenized pot of web rice. Every grain is the same with slight differences.

Where is the fun

I think my entire point comes down to “where’s the fun?” This is purely from my perspective, as I know many designers who find joy in the current UX process and outcomes. I too find a fair amount of joy in the process when a design system comes together. There are moments when I am staring at an Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma file and my eyes glaze over from seeing the same UI elements from other projects. Not because they are being reused, but because that is the standard. Not many clients sign off on ornate, double line, golden CTAs these days.

I could just be pinning for my youth, which I hear happens when you become an old. But in my early internet scrolling days, the AOL demo disk days, The dial up so my dad can’t get through to us on the phone days, the websites were weird and wonderful. I once ran across a flash website that had the user navigate by zooming into the page to elements that were “off int eh distance”. There is no way I could possibly Google that website nor do I think it had a robots.txt file. It was incredible though. I think it was for a clothing company, I don’t remember because I am an old.

The User Experience solution

I’d love to see the Figma for this site

The hard sell is to abandon this preconceived notion of a “standard UX.” Kits and themes are great, but if you can do something bold and adventurous for your users, do that thing. Websites like Wizarding World consider their fanbase and offer branded, interactive experiences like The Sorting Hat to keep new and old fans returning. It’s a tailored portal built for a specific set of fans. Their UX and UI are specific to Wizarding World, and while you could copy its aesthetic, you would be biting off their experience. You can’t say the same for a site using a standard UI kit or the Twenty-Twenty-Four WordPress template.

Designers or anyone using the term UX forget it stands for “User Experience.” How do we make our users’ journey through our website or app palatable, frictionless, and enjoyable? UX doesn’t mean “simple” or “minimal.” It means crafting an experience that the target audience will find frictionless and enjoyable. That’s different things for different groups. Making every web experience the same does train the masses to know how to use every website, but what the hell kind of fun is that? Stand out, make something fun for your users, and give them a reason to return occasionally.

But also take into account your SEO, analytics, PageRank…

Old man yells at cloud

“TAILOR YOUR UX!” – Abe Simpson

What were your favorite websites back in the day? Want to rant about the state of website design with me? Are you interested in making some bold changes to your web experience? Drop me a line, and let’s chat!

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