Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Web Design: Sexy versus Conservative

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Paris Hilton - sexy versus conservative

In this post I try to keep true to my promise to add some spice to the world of web design and usability: I will try to investigate the cons of designing "sexy" versus "conservative".

So far clients still owe me a consistent definition of what they mean by asking for a "sexy" or "conservative" user interface. I guess I have a hunch and we all probably feel the difference but eventually it boils down to subjective interpretations.

Photo credits: AlphaX/X17, Adrian Varnedoe, A. Than/Pacific Coast News


Just for a moment think of who you would rather want to have a long-lasting relationship with? The Paris Hilton on the left of the photo (sexy) or the Paris Hilton to the right (conservative)? Ok, probably neither, but for the sake of the argument?

In the words of one of our consultants: make the design 'sexy' for our marketing department and 'conservative' for our users. What now? Really?

Let's try to look at the cons of either side in an unbiased way by using a funny dating analogy:

The Bad of too Sexy

Designing too sexy gives everything away for free and leaves you with nothing to hold in reserve

Users know within seconds whether a site is right for them or not, they smell the scent of usefulness and determine that what is offered is worth further time investment. One might call initial attraction a success but it is human nature to want something more if we cannot have it.

So keep certain things a mystery. Don't give everything away upfront or for free. It's OK to tease though.

A 'slutty' design may lower your general value

Your users may feel that they have a higher intrinsic value than you do. Therefore you are not really worth further attention or a long-term relationship.

Design for emotions but keep in mind that trust is only built when your users can take you serious.

Sexy design may show your less than desirable aspects

Surely skillful designers know that it is important to emphasize the attractive aspects of your business and hide the less attractive characteristics. But, trying to pretend being somebody or something that you are not will come across as fake and unreal.

Stay true to your values and represent who you are. Don't pretend to be young or sexy if you aren't.

The Bad of too Conservative

Designing conservatively may indicate a low self-esteem

'Playing it safe' can be caused by many things: traditions, missing innovation, dusty policies, organizational structures, stubborn managers. Whatever it is, it will be felt by the users and could be interpreted as old-fashioned, slow (to deliver), outdated or simply lame.

Being bold is important (having a skilled designer helps too). Engage modern technology and trends like the social web.

Designing conservatively may indicate discomfort with your own business

You might have a hard time defining your business or telling an attractive story of who you are or what you do. This means you are not wholly comfortable or happy with what you represent and therefore choose to show as little of yourself as possible. Holding back is very risky because users (clients) might not understand who you are and don't know why they should get engaged or continue spending their time on your site.

Work hard to make your content/service attractive rather than the appearance. Don't hold back with something that helps engaging users.

Designing conservatively may not catch your users

Design must stand out because it will make YOU stand out. In times where everybody and everything is available on the web it's more important than ever to be unique in your offering, precise in how your business is different (or better) to others and clear in your message. Your front-end should clearly communicate all that! Designing too conservative may ultimately result in fewer visits and engagements.

Be unique and clear about your offerings and communicate it through your user interface.


The purpose of (most) web designs is to engage people and build relationships. That's why appearance is so important and that's why you should not design in stereotypes (aka 'sexy' or 'conservative').

Try to be clear about what you offer and honest in how you present it.

Like with anything in life, make sure to do your homework, learn about your target audience (think google). This will tell you how to dress appropriately and make the date between you and your users a pleasurable experience and hopefully a long-lasting one as well.

What's your opinion? How do you design? Why?


UCD Method: Focus Groups

Posted by Michael Gaigg

What it is

A focus group is a moderated discussion that lasts about two hours and covers a range of pre-selected topics.

In traditional focus groups, a screened (qualified target audience) group of respondents gathers in the same room. A moderator guides the group through a loosely structured discussion that probes attitudes about a client's proposed products or services. The moderator is typically given a list of objectives or an anticipated outline. Additional questions might serve to initiate open-ended discussions.

When to use

Requirements phase





Sample Size

6-9 users

Pro's / Gains

  • Discover what users want/desire/belief
  • Observe group dynamics and organizational issues
  • Show users spontaneous reactions and ideas

Con's / Disadvantages

  • Don’t trust what people say or pretend to do
  • Possible bias through specialized groups

How to perform

  • Select representative participants.
  • Identify problem area (what you want to learn).
  • Prepare a script for the moderator to follow.
  • Hire a skilled moderator (facilitator).
  • Allow flexibility during the test to keep the discussion flowing.
  • Tape and/or observe the test.
  • Create good notes of the test.