It’s been called the ugliest website ever created. And it’s changed little since the mid 90′s when it was created.
Yet, it is arguably the most successful website on the planet.
Can you guess what site I’m talking about? If you said, “Drudge Report,” pat yourself on the back.
I’ve mentioned this throwback site before when talking about ugly design. But a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism prompts me to mention it again.
According to the report, Drudge is not only a highly visited site with millions of unique visitors a month, it drives twice as much traffic to top news sites as Facebook and seven times as much as Twitter. Not bad for basically a one-man operation.
Though best known as a direct mail guy, I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of website work for my clients. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes websites work.
Given the astonishing success of Drudge, I think it’s smart to consider why this website is such as standout. Yes, it’s a news site, not a business site, however the lessons we can learn are universal.
It’s simple. At a glance, you know what the site is about. The reaction of some designers may be that it’s “ugly,” but really it’s just uncomplicated. After all, look at Google. This behemoth company has always understood the power of simplicity.
It’s easy. You don’t have to figure out navigation links or sit through self-indulgent flash animation. It’s a page of links to information you want. Go to the page and click on a link.
It’s valuable. Some critics have said it’s “just” a page full of links. But Matt Drudge, the site’s owner, sifts through massive amounts of information and boils it down to the biggest and most interesting bits of news. The value is that it saves you time and gives you what you’re looking for with zero effort.
When Drudge created his site, his purpose was to serve his visitors, not to show off the latest design and technical innovations. His formula worked then and it continues to work today.
We all know that ugly direct mail can work like gangbusters and for basically the same reasons. There’s nothing that gets in the way of the message.
Look at your own website. It doesn’t have to be a throwback to the 90′s, but it should have the same qualities as the Drudge site. Is it simple? Is it easy? Is it valuable?