Eating a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch every day wouldn’t be very adventurous, and it certainly wouldn’t classify you as a risk taker (in terms of your eating habits, that is). But, at least you would get consistent, predictable results. The same rules apply to business. If you follow safe trends and standard patterns you’re likely to come up with the same old, predictable results. In sharp contrast to this, if you’re willing to go out on a limb and take a risk, you will find yourself with three possible outcomes: 1. Failure 2. Success 3. Somewhere in between.
Living a life (or running a business) without risk or adventure can be pretty bland. I’m personally a huge advocate of taking risks and seeking adventure, but not without strategy and purpose. Taking a completely random risk can be down right foolish.
So when is it appropriate?
Every once in a while you’ll see a fairly outrageous commercial on TV that creates a lot of buzz. The commercial may have been completely arbitrary with no real call to action or showing of product, but still somehow seemed to be effective. In order to get away with taking a risk like this you need to have a product that everyone already knows and loves. Take Budweiser for instance, it seems like they can pretty much get away with anything, when it comes to their advertising, and their patrons will just keep growing and growing. Now, their general audience comes to expect this from them, which inevitably turns ‘risky’ advertising into their brand. If, however, an unknown company was to attempt launching a risky advertising campaign there would be a much higher chance of failure.
This same concept applies to web design, which is why I was so surprised by the recent redesign of contrast.ie. This is not to say that I didn’t like their redesign. Quite the opposite actually. My surprise rooted soley from the logic that this new design seemed a bit risky considering their current client roster (which inherently seems fairly corporate).
If this was a personal portfolio/blog site of a designer, meant to be viewed and admired by other designers then I would say that the overall user experience was excellent. However, considering who (I’m assuming) their desired audience would be (potential clients), the user experience seemed a bit ambiguous. The dominant grunge effect and the nontraditional buttons coupled with the single page nature of this site really narrows the audience of who this would appeal to.
There are many elements which make up the overall user experience, one of which is design aesthetic, while another is functionality. Both of these elements must pertain directly to your intended audience or the whole experience will be a failed attempt, regardless of how unique and creative the outcome is to folks within the industry. Missing your target demographic while appealing to your colleagues would be like an automotive company creating a car that can only be driven by highly trained technicians. It might be a ground breaking creation within the industry but the end user will keep walking after they can’t figure out how it functions.
It’s not all bad though
The structure and hierarchy of content is laid out quite nicely. It’s immediately clear to anyone who arrives at this site just what it is that they do – “We do web apps”. Coupled with this obviously blunt statement is a barrage of chicken scratched testimonials; something any potential client is interested in reading. Immediately following this is what would be considered the team or company section, featuring a small yet competent looking team. After scrolling by a few more testimonials you make your way to the portfolio, then lastly, the contact section. Like I said, this is ultimately a great structure. It informs the user and gives them all the necessary information they would need to be convinced of their work then inquire about working together.
So, in terms of structure, this site seems solid. My concern simply lies within the risk they are taking by appealing to such a niche audience with the design aesthetic and functionality. But hey, who am I to judge? For all I know this could be a strategic move that is in-fact focused on appealing to a specific audience. Either way, I give them a big applaud for taking this risk. After all, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.