This is an article about having a unique website. But before we get to that, first we need to talk about cars.
The magazine Popular Mechanics ran a story about how cars in recent years have come to all look the same.
The article explained that this uniformity comes from the need to strike a happy balance among multiple competing demands.
These demands include interior space requirements, powertrain packaging, federal regulations, production feasibility, and gas-saving aerodynamic efficiency.
These demands are consistent from one car maker to the next.
Since they all face the same set of demands arising from the same sets of rules and marketing data, it’s easy to see how car manufacturers often come to same conclusions about aesthetics and functionality.
You can only be so creative in the face of that much constraint.
Uniformity of Design
This also holds true when it comes to today’s websites.
For just as with cars, there are technical, creative, and market forces conspiring to promote website uniformity.
There exists an entire web industry focused on tracking what users find attractive, observing how they interact with elements on a page, and discovering the approaches that spur the most conversions.
(This is similar to the market research conducted on behalf of car makers to figure out the interior features most loved and valued by consumers.)
The insights gleaned by these analysts drive the next iterations of product, be it digital or physical.
As a result, you’re now seeing a lot of the same visual styling and interactions on many of the websites you visit lately.
A Brilliant Approach
So what can you do if you want a unique website (or brand, for that matter)?
For starters, you can utilize complex and novel features in scrolling or overlay unique logos and color schemes on your theme.
You can take all the typical parts of the website and throw in artistic flare.
Or you can remove certain portions of what users expect to see.
But just as amphibious cars never became a thing, novel website tricks can only take you so far. They get you noticed, but lack staying power.
We can take another cue from our example of the auto manufacturing industry here. Next time you watch a car commercial, pay attention to how they get around the fact that their shiny, four-wheeled transportation device looks like everyone else’s.
Notice that they give the automobile a story, a persona. They do this by adding context. They put the car in a certain environment. Or they put a particular type of person behind the wheel.
This is smart. In fact, it’s brilliant. And it’s an approach easily mirrored when it comes to website properties.
Creating Context for a Unique Website
To add context and give your website a persona all its own, try these tactics:
Update your content often. Freshening what’s on your pages will serve as a breath of fresh air for visitors—and for Google’s indexing crawlers. Frequently changing your content also gives you a chance to strut your best stuff, which likely will be projects you recently completed.
Use images taken by you. Resist the temptation to resort to stock photos. Sure, stock is easier than snapping your own pictures (or those taken for you by a pro). But remember that the stock image you buy probably appears on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other websites.
Give your menus and navigation buttons better titles. The experts at Forbes say you can make yours a more unique website by using titles that convey a value-proposition. The fewer words you use in that title, the better. They gave the example of a page titled “Classes” and recommended changing it to “Learn.”
Best Way to Make Your Website Stand Out
Then there's also this one. It will require more effort and discipline than the others:
Speak with a distinctive voice. Basically, you should strive to offer content available nowhere else. One way to do that is by presenting your personal insights about issues of interest to your audience. Express them passionately and with conviction—no other website will have quite the same voice as a result.
When all is said and done, it's possible to have a unique website in a world where so many rival sites seem undifferentiated.