How to Create Remarkable Websites For Boring Products

by 20 03/05/2012

It’s easy to develop a remarkable web design to showcase the latest Apple product.  Ok, not easy, but easier than developing a remarkable website for a plumber or an office supply company.

The difference is the product. When the product itself is remarkable, the design follows.

But most web design projects don’t involve remarkable products. We live in the real world, where designing just another law firm website is the norm.

So how can you bring good design to the websites you’re working on where the product offering seems a little lack-luster?

I’ve searched the web and come across quite a few websites that got it right – these are my top 7.

#1: trackyourtruck.com (Straight North)

http://www.trackyourtruck.com/

Track Your Truck is a website promoting GPS vehicle tracking solutions. This isn’t the most exciting product or service to advertise. Instead of picturing the actual device (which might be boring), the design employs imagery and icons that speak to the benefits you’ll receive from the product. It’s this kind of creative thinking that has the ability to transform boring content into beautiful, effective design.

#2: marketdelta.com (Rule 29/Floodlight)

http://www.marketdelta.com/

Market Delta is a trading software company. Their software provides charts and technical information about market trading. Since the product is so technical, the website mainly focuses on headlines describing the benefits the product provides with just a few snapshots of the program in action in the background.

#3 nocellaroofing.com (Vance Bell)

http://www.nocellaroofing.com/

Nocella Roofing is a U.S. East Coast roofing company. Rather than using images of actual roofs they’ve put on, which might be a little dull, the site uses creative copy writing and illustrations to convey the feeling you will have if you don’t get your roof fixed! They’re focusing on the feeling and benefit you’ll receive rather than the actual product and service.

#4: reconsiderclean.com (The Designers Accord)

http://www.reconsiderclean.com/

Re:consider is an innovative cleaning solution company that promotes a more sustainable way to clean. Their concept is exciting, but cleaning solution is still cleaning solution. Their site is minimal and well done – you can shop, learn more about the company, and learn about their products. The site appeals to the sustainability of the product rather than just selling the cleaning solution.

#5: bountytowels.com (Possible Worldwide)

http://www.bountytowels.com/#

Bounty’s newly redesigned site features a lot of visual content and opportunity for interactivity. It features promotions, cleaning tips and even activities for kids. Bounty has a very recognizable, strong brand that this design centers around.

#6: dow.com (Verndale)

http://www.dow.com/

Dow Chemical Company’s website is designed around their principles of innovation, sustainability and community. You’ll have to look pretty deep to find any images of the actual products Dow produces. Focusing the design on these positive aspects of the company helps them seem more approachable and softens the negative image often associated with chemical and oil products.

#7: cathedralcity.co.uk (Iris Digital)

http://www.cathedralcity.co.uk/

Cathedral City is a UK based cheese company. While they do have photos of cheese on the site, their cheese products are not the main focus. The website focuses on the Cathedral City brand as well as recipes that can be made using their cheese products – which speak to the benefits their products provide.

All of these websites focus on something other than the actual product or service they’re trying to sell.

Why? Because the product is not what is remarkable about the offering.

When your product isn’t exciting, this is a good direction to take. Think about what is remarkable about what your selling. Is it the benefit the consumer will receive or the feeling they’ll get when using your product? Does it appeal to a trendy sentiment like sustainability? Maybe the brand has a fun identity you can focus on.

Focusing on these aspects in the design of the website will help you bring good design to even the most boring products. These websites went above and beyond the product to position the website in a more eye-catching way.

Know of any other websites that transformed boring content into a beautiful design? Have your own tactics for promoting boring products? Send me a message or leave a comment!

About 

Angela Noble is a designer and partner at Kovalent who specializes in print and web design. You can find out more about her and view her portfolio at http://angelanoble.com or follow her on Twitter @AngelaNoble_.

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20 COMMENTS

Nataly

Oh my! These sites are not about boring products, some of them are about being downright exploitative and unethical.

How about having some principles as a designer instead of reaching for hackneyed CSR platitudes which anyone with half a brain cell can see through anyway?

“the latest trendy sentiment like sustainability”??? Hello?? Anyone at home?

Amazing…

March 5, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    @Nataly — We certainly respect your opinion Nataly. However, I don’t think this was intended to be a piece on Corporate Social Responsibility. The point is that it is possible to create good design without a sexy product like the iPad.

    March 5, 2012 Reply

      Nataly

      Russ, clearly this is not a business piece. But you imply that designers’ responsibility ends at shuffling images around and playing with colours. What about giving some thought to the meaning of your clients’ activities?

      Designers (and marketers) need not be one-dimensional. In fact, a little life experience and effort invested in understanding clients’ businesses and the issues underlying them will be the key to discovering that the majority of these products and services are in fact not “boring”. Office supplies, truck deliveries and legal services have meaning for many people. Once you discover what that meaning is, you’re on the road to bringing your work alive.

      Unfortunately, you might also discover that there are some projects best given a wide berth for the sake of your professional integrity. The Dow site is the most shocking example of greenwashing I have ever seen. Could you stomach knowing that you were responsible for that?

      This piece really could have been thought through a bit better. I suspect the writer is simply not aware of the threats to environmental and human health we are currently facing.

      March 6, 2012 Reply

        Adam

        Ladies and gentlemen, may I present, “that person”.

        March 6, 2012 Reply

        Christopher Lee

        @Nataly –

        Perhaps you have taken the post out of its intended context. The post is meant as a means of showing how to create remarkable websites for any product and for that matter any company. Regardless of your views on social responsibility we as designers can make the choice to either work for that company or not. In that regard the author’s point is made, each of these pages are remarkably well crafted given their products and clientele.

        This is a good post with good inspiration. Perhaps Nataly would have felt better justified if the title were simply, “How To Create Remarkable Websites.”

        March 6, 2012 Reply

          Nataly

          Guys, I think you don’t appreciate the deep shock I felt to see the Dow website flaunting “trendy sentiments like sustainability” in such an utterly hypocritical way, and that being showcased as an example of good design.

          You might not be aware of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the ongoing environmental suffering and damage it causes. If you are interested, please take a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster.

          Don’t think I’m just getting at Dow – I was actually only dimly aware that it was they who were behind this tragedy until the obnoxious way Dow uses CSR alerted me to check it out.

          I would argue that there is a design message here: this approach can be highly counterproductive.

          I’m not sure that it’s OK to whitewash – let alone celebrate – any aspect of this stuff in any context.

          March 6, 2012

          Nataly

          And no, a simple title change wouldn’t help.

          March 6, 2012

          Nataly

          A good parallel just occurred to me: it would be like me saying “Look at how BP’s website features a pretty flower and makes absolutely no mention of Deepwater Horizon!” I think (hope) you would question my sanity.

          Interestingly, look at the bp.com home page. It gets straight to the meat. The disaster was equally appalling, but I think this is a more sensible way of handling their shop window to the world.

          March 6, 2012

          Russ Henneberry

          @Nataly — Both the Deepwater Horizon and Bhopal Disaster are clearly terrible catastrophe’s. Perhaps this is a good subject for a future article about “whitewashing” an incident like this through design.

          March 6, 2012

Big Ben

Great post!

What’s more important – having a “remarkable website” or one that produces profitable results? I own several companies and I’ll take the latter. The beauty of the web and modern marketing analytics systems is that (virtually) everything can be tracked and quantified. Nothing pisses designers off more than ugly stuff that works better than pretty stuff. Swallow the medicine people… make it easy on the eyes AND high-performing (is this really too much to ask!?!? Wink, wink, smile.)

March 5, 2012 Reply

Nataly

@Russ – Agreed, it could be an interesting area to cover… perhaps not so much “whitewashing” but how to deal with sensitive subject matter. This is getting into the area of PR and crisis management, but perhaps it’s useful for designers to be sensitised to some of the issues here.

March 6, 2012 Reply

Angela Jones

My goal with this blog poat was to speak only to the aesthetics of these website designs. Sustainability is a trend right now, but it’s something many companies have been practicing long before it was a trend. Regardless of my personal values in regards to sustainability and green practices, it is true that many companies are appealing to the trendiness of “green” to sell their products – even in cases where their products were already green, but just not advertised as such because it wasn’t important to the consumer.

Whether or not I agree with Dow’s practices (or would choose to design their site in such a way that made them look green and humanitarian if I believed that was a lie), it was my intention with this example to show that despite the negativity surrounding Dow, the designer made a great design that highlighted the good things Dow is doing.

I do believe that designers have the responsibility to research any company they are working with to determine the best way to highlight what is great about their product – even if it seems boring on the surface. Like you said, if you dig deep enough you’ll find what makes the product exciting and can go from there to design something remarkable. That was ultimately my point with this blog post, but I regret if that was overshadowed by an example that may have used design as more of a mask.

March 6, 2012 Reply

    Nataly

    Thanks for the reply, Angela, it’s much appreciated.

    I think in the case of Dow the focus on “trendy sentiments” is so heavy-handed that I would question whether this is good design.

    Sustainability and green values may be being misused by many marketers right now, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to describe these movements as “trends”. However, I am sure you didn’t intend to sound dismissive.

    Greenpeace has an excellent site about greenwashing:

    http://www.stopgreenwash.org/

    There are so many worthwhile projects waiting to be worked on that it’s a pity to take on work like this. Thankfully some jurisdictions are sanctioning greenwashing in marketing so hopefully we’ll see less of this kind of behaviour.

    March 7, 2012 Reply

john clarke

They are really good designs.. Applause for sharing it !!

June 20, 2013 Reply

Black Slate Studios

Beatiful design examples. Great motivation for my web designers at Black Slate Studios here in Vancouver.

September 29, 2013 Reply

    Angela Noble

    Thank you! Glad to be of help. I often refer back to this post myself when I’m hitting a wall on difficult products to promote!

    October 2, 2013 Reply


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