When it comes to direct response marketing design, decades of testing have revealed that ugly design outperforms “beautiful” design trends all the time.
If you are familiar with traditional direct response marketing, you probably know this already.
However, this goes against the common wisdom you’ll hear from designers, who promote minimalist, aesthetically pleasing design.
The thinking goes like this: too many extra elements distract from the content.
But the real question is — how does it perform?
The reality is that busy, and even ugly, outperform minimal and beautiful.
When it comes to direct response marketing design, I tend to listen to direct response marketers before I listen to designers … because direct response marketers are absolutely committed to testing, results, and ROI.
For instance, the folks at DigitalMarketer.com care about field-tested numbers more than popular design wisdom.
In a talk I heard a while back, they tested various design approaches at SurvivalLife.com, an extremely successful online property.
And what do you think they found?
Minimal, stark beauty like that being promoted by the UX community?
Survival Life found that “busy” works.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly call their site fugly…
But it sure ain’t a work of art.
In fact, some of their sidebars look like cutout coupons with crazy busy text that you can barely read. And they’ve got ads butting into their content all over the place.
But because these guys test, test, and test some more, you know that this type of design outsells “pretty” designs like the minimalist interfaces rampaging through today’s world wide web.
You can also rest assured that other direct response marketing companies — like Agora and Bottom Line — test every element in their campaigns as well.
And if you’ve ever seen a direct mail campaign, you’ll find that some of them look like busy tabloids instead of beautiful fashion mags.
So why does busy and ugly outsell minimalism in direct response marketing design?
In my opinion, it’s because busy and ugly are just more real.
Minimalist, stark designs aren’t stimulating, they aren’t interesting, and they aren’t realistic.
Stark beauty and minimalism automatically put a gap between the “Average Joe” user and the design … and, by extension, the brand.
Of course, this is just my perspective on why ugly (and even fugly) outperforms beauty.
What really matters are the numbers. And the numbers say that in direct response marketing design, busy works.
So if you’re running a marketing campaign, make sure you actually test it.
In other words, pay attention to how your customers respond — not what “common wisdom” says.