The Face of Web Hosting

Is there some sort of unspoken agreement among the world’s hosting providers that states that their websites must look like total ass?

I’ve been looking for a good, solid web hosting provider for a new project of mine, and so I’ve spent a lot of time visiting the websites of various providers. However, one thing has been bugging me: is there some sort of unspoken agreement among the world’s hosting providers that states that their websites must look like total ass?

No matter how many websites I visit, I see many of the same elements time and again. To name but a few:

  • Photos of smiling white people wearing headsets and/or sitting at computers doing really fun stuff (like sending out a mass e‑mail about the evils of Proctor & Gamble) — photos that have “cheap stock photography from 1995” written all over them.
  • Additional random photos of generic computer equipment (cases, motherboards, etc.) that may or may not represent the actual systems employed by the provider — but they sure look real technological sitting there on the site.
  • Oodles of that abstract, glowing filament imagery that’s supposed to look cool and World Wide Web-ish, and would — if it were still 1999.
  • Flash mastheads and navigation that, in an attempt to look even more hip and futuristic than hosting providers probably need to, are often accompanied by annoying drum n’ bass music — sorry folks, but you’re not 2Advanced.
  • Frustrating site navigations that promise to give you more information, but in fact, sucker you into beginning the ordering process
  • Designs that look cool, what with all of their bevels and fades and other Photoshop gimmickry, for all of 5 seconds, and then quickly become tedious and generic.
  • Coupons plastered all over the place advertising the latest and greatest deal (50GB of hosting for a quarter! Register 235 domains for a nickel!).

The more these websites, which all look like the results of a marketing department run amok, try to impress me, the more it feels like they’re actually trying to pull one over on me. Like they’re trying to distract me with glitz and glam so I won’t notice something’s amiss (their deals are too good to be true, their customer service sucks, the Web is full of their customers’ horror stories, etc.). That impression is driven even further home by the fact that it’s next to impossible to find even the simplest, most basic information about their services, systems, and capabilities. Really, how hard is it to tell a prospective client what version(s) of PHP you support?

When I finally find a hosting provider like SegPub or TextDrive or even Tilted, one whose website doesn’t feel like a glorified coupon, they’ve already got a point or two in their favor simply on the strength of their websites’ design. Their designs aren’t packed with flava, but they are simple, well-structured, and elegant by comparison — and those seemingly little things can (and do) go a long way towards impressing prospective clients.

These hosts might even be considerably more expensive (maybe charging more than $2/month for hosting means they can afford a decent designer). But the fact that I can find what I need to know without having to wade through base marketing spiels and cheap stock photography means that I’m this much closer to pulling out the credit card.

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