To break out today, your website has to Wow. It has to have some magic to it. Most of the differentiation for web products right now is design. It is critical because the bar has been raised by consumers. Pretty soon, it will be table stakes. Here’s why.
Back in the late 1990’s (remember back then?), the web was so new that doing every day functions on the web was revolutionary. It seemed so magical to buy common goods without having to go to the store, that consumers rushed in droves to try it. There was a gold rush, and then a settling into a few dominate winners, which now have become platforms. This period is commonly referred to in web circles as Web 1.0.
After the “bubble burst” a new bread of web companies emerged. These products learned lessons from the 1.0 companies and are much more focused on a business model (crazy right?). However, the key change for Web 2.0 companies has been the incorporation of social. Adding social elements to your product abets growth. But like all good things, social features got abused, and consumers have learned the game. Consumers have become much less willing to spam their feeds with a website’s marketing message cloaked as a website feature/badge/fun fact/etc.
Nothing is new.
To break out now, you still need to Wow consumers. The current innovation cycle is all about great UX and visual design. As Drew Houston famously said, “if the software just worked like magic, customers would flock to it.” This is what today’s web innovations have become. Your site has to be beautiful visually, extremely simple and have a little magic in it. The bar has been raised and that is today’s table stakes. Otherwise, consumers will ignore it. Thus all new product development has to have Magic as a priority.
But Design is not a Barrier to Entry.
Make no mistake, while a beautiful design is critical to a site’s success, it does not create a barrier to entry. Even the most beautiful designs can be copied in relatively short order as Pinterist has learned. Even in this design focused era (what I refer to as Web 2.9) the fundamentals of competitive strategy hold. There are only a few real BTE and websites need to build around these fundamentals as well. It is just that the bar has been raised.