Brutal web design is the buzzword of 2018 that may turn into the ecommerce trend of 2019. What exactly is brutal web design? It is exactly what it looks like – brutal. These websites are not attempting to be good looking.
They do not search for the perfect font or try to match colors to the latest fashion in season. They do not contain graphics meant to entice the average person to the site. In most cases, they do not even try to follow any normal web design conventions. They seem to come straight from the unadulterated mind of a person who is looking to get to the point.
Some well known brutal web designs include the Adult Swim website, The Drudge Report, and others.
What Started the Trend of Brutal Web Design?
As web design began to proliferate into ecommerce in exponentially large numbers, designers began to compete against themselves using the smoothest, grooviest tools and styles available.
Business owners were looking to be more professional than competitors. Most of the time, this meant a more expensive and subtle layout. Every detail in these websites was handpicked, detailed, and, well, groovy.
This kind of web design coincided with the types of companies that were being created during this time.
Silicon Valley circa 2015 was throwing money around left and right. The businesses born during this time were well-funded and specific to niche audiences.
They sold products for people with money, who were also trying to sell products to people with money.
The result – the equivalent of a socialite cocktail party with members of rival sororities in attendance. Everyone keeps a smile on their face when they really want to get drunk and talk crap about each other.
Eventually, everybody got too drunk. The new result? Brutal web design.
The Uptick in Brutality
Brutality began to show itself around 2016. Articles detailing the practice popped up on Forbes, Entrepreneur and other major business websites. The sites that were taking on this type of design seemed to be legitimate, but somehow they were trolling!
Could anyone take the businesses behind these websites seriously?
The short answer is yes. The culture was ready for it. Everyone in the audience for these brutal websites was already in on the joke.
Digitally native Millennials, who seem to have a collective online conscience, seemed to decide collectively that nice websites were now corny.
It is true that everyone seemed to use the same website template – double background with big text and textured scrolling. Why not? It worked.
It was fully responsive, and there was no reason to rock the boat and potentially lose out on sales.
After a while, these websites permeated the Internet. Everything started to look the same. That is definitely not what the Millennial generation is about.
Little by little, the Internet began to see the changes. The turning point was probably when the Adult Swim website made huge changes to its websites that were obviously brutal.
The ironic nature of the brand introduced people to the concept without any loss of veracity.
Little by little, people caught on to the trend and began to use it. What’s more, it began to work.
Not only do brutal websites have a purposefully unsophisticated look, but they also employ purposefully crude coding. Brutal coding is short and to the point.
The point, however, may not be immediately obvious or accessible to people who have not been initiated into the culture.
However, the user experience always finds a way to make sense. It is not straightforward, but it does not get in the way of the sales funnel.
Once the user “gets the joke,” it can actually be a simpler and more fun way to provide information to the audience. Brutal designs are especially good for microinteractions.
What exactly are microinteractions?
Web designers (and website users) usually define the user experience by the big steps that a user takes through the sales funnel.
If a designer can easily lead a user to a landing page, through the funnel and into a conversion on the sales page, this is usually considered a good user experience.
Brutal web design takes delight in the smaller interactions.
Changing the volume of the music on a brutal site, setting different status messages, synching your device to the site, or adjusting device settings from the site are just a few of the ways that brutal sites keep the user present and interested.
If the user stumbles upon one of these fun microinteractions, then that user is more likely to stay and experiment with the rest of the design. This raises time on site, reduces bounce rate and increases engagement.
(All of these KPIs are things that will improve search engine ranking for a site and bring more visitors to it, which is exactly the point of the design in the first place.)
Eventually, the highly engaged user will find his or her way to other parts of the sales funnel with a memorable story about the site as well.
All of a sudden, brutal becomes fun and exciting. The look of the site is no longer a hindrance, even to people who were predisposed to traditional sites.
The Trend for 2019 – More and More Brutal
Responsive sites are moving towards new features and formats. With all of the Silicon Valley money taken by the first responders, new sites need to create a modern, unique look on a budget.
What is the easiest way to do this, you might ask? Well, you can pretend as though your mistakes are purposeful and call it brutal website design!
You can bet that we will see more of this design trend in the future – at least until the charlatans saturate the Internet with the concept and ruin it. After that, on to the next!