Why your new ejournal or website should not look too slick…
“When we watch people try to complete tasks on websites we notice that often the more visually appealing something is, the more they ignore it. If it looks like marketing or an ad, then people dismiss it as having low value or credibility. In the eyes of many customers, ugly equals authentic and credible. Ugly helps you get the task completed quickly without any fuss or distraction. Ugly is going to give you the details. Ugly is not hiding anything. Ugly does not waste your time on surface images and trivial jargon and hype.”
And yet, on the other hand, any Web design that shrieks “generic old-school blog template” will trigger the preconceptions arising from the over-use of such templates on spam blogs. The ideal is perhaps to be relatively plain/simple on the landing page, but also to tweak the template so as to display small carefully-crafted human touches in the design and layout.
Many open ejournals do pretty well on the ugly/authentic score. But some loose points with visitors by saying “here’s a naff 400px picture of this issue’s journal cover, click on it to see the table of contents”. That’s an annoying time-waster and means it can take as many as four clicks to get from the front page to an actual article. If you really must inflict a picture cover on readers, then stick it at the side of — or even behind — the table-of-contents. Ideally, also pay someone on Fivver to actually design your cover, and ensure they know something about typography, layout, and picture-research in the public domain.