Beauty Pays: Beautiful Websites (and People) Get Better Results

Beauty Pays: Beautiful Websites (and People) Get Better Results

Does beauty sell? Most people would intuitively say ‘yes’, but what evidence is there that supports the claim?

In today’s article we’ll take a look at the world of beautiful people, products, and design. How being beautiful has its upsides and sometimes, things to look out for.  Welcome to the world of beautiful design, beautiful people, beautiful products, beautiful everything. I hope you enjoy your stay.

Implications of being beautiful

Beauty, money, and happiness

Money can’t buy happiness, but maybe, just maybe, beauty can… what do you think?

Economists at the University of Texas analyzed data from 5 large scale surveys conducted between 1971 and 2009 in USA, Canada, Germany and UK to find links between happiness and attractiveness.

In the study participants were asked about their levels of happiness, while at the same time their looks were rated by interviewers (either face-to-face or looking at respondents’ photos).

Results show that those in the top 15% of  people ranked by looks were more than 10% happier than those in the bottom 10%. According to authors it’s the economic benefit that results from beauty that accounts for at least half of that extra happiness.

“The majority of beauty’s effect on happiness works through its impact on economic outcomes,” says lead author Dr. Daniel Hamermesh, who has studied attractiveness effects for many years.

“Think about it as a gateway to getting what you want from life — job interviews, first dates, making those initial impressions, persuading and influencing other people,” he adds. “Attractiveness gives that slight edge. They’re getting the benefit of the doubt at first sight, and unattractive people aren’t.”

Attractive people are likely to earn an average of 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average looks. That adds up to $230,000 more over a lifetime for the typical good-looking person, Dr. Hamermesh estimates. Even an average-looking worker is likely to make $140,000 more over a lifetime than an ugly worker.

As if that’s not enough


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The University of British Columbia study has found that people identify the personality traits of people who are physically attractive more accurately than others during short encounters.

If people think Jane is beautiful, and she is very organized and somewhat generous, people will see her as more organized and generous than she actually is,” says Prof. Jeremy Biesanz, UBC Dept. of Psychology, who co-authored the study with PhD student Lauren Human and undergraduate student Genevieve Lorenzo.

Despite this bias, our study shows that people will also correctly discern the relative ordering of Jane’s personality traits — that she is more organized than generous — better than others they find less attractive.”

Beautiful real estate agents get you more money for your property

A study published in Applied Financial Economics looked at the role of attractiveness of real estate agents in selling houses. Outside observers were asked to rate the attractiveness of thousands of real estate agents’ photos on a scale from 1 to 10. One being “very unattractive” and ten representing “very attractive”.

Researchers found that more-attractive agents sell properties at higher prices than less-attractive agents. Sean Alter, a professor of finance from Middle Tennessee State University and co-author of the study commented: “Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you see the agent on the billboard, and it’s an attractive picture. Your first impression is that this is an attractive person. So before you even hire this person to sell your home, you already have a positive impression of that person in your mind.”

Interestingly, the study also found that it takes more time for attractive agents to actually sell the house. But when it does get sold, it sells at a higher price. “There’s a clear trade-off here,” Salter says. “If you enlist the help of a more-attractive listing agent, you have a better chance of selling your home at your desired price, but your house will have to sit on the market for a longer period of time.

So all in all you will make more money from selling your house if you enlist the services of an attractive agent, but you have to be ready to wait a bit longer for the money to arrive.

Mobile phones: which one is the fairest of them all?

The year is 2007, it’s early July and you are on the market for a new mobile phone. Would you rather choose Nokia N95:


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or a Blackberry Pearl:


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or a just released iPhone:

74 days after the iPhone was launched, Apple had sold 1 million phones. 200 days later that number had grown to 4 million. That’s a lot of phones.

Yes, it is wrong to say that the appearance was the only reason it sold an order of magnitude more than other “smart” phone manufacturers, but go ahead and take another look at the aesthetics of the iPhone, and the best from Nokia and RIM. There is no question which one looks the best (and also happened to sell way more than others).

It’s a thermostat. A thermostat!

The New York Times writes that it is “…gorgeous, elegant and very, very smart.”  What on earth could they be talking about? You would never, ever, ever guess that the thing that they are writing about is …. Nest, the smart thermostat.

I first heard about Nest when I read about it on Mashable. Now, my house doesn’t use thermostats so there is absolutely no point in me owning one. But I have to admit that when I saw it, I wanted it! It looked that good.


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Later, I found that it was made by Tony Fadell. You know, the guy who led the team that created the first 18 generations of the iPod and the first three generations of the iPhone. No wonder it looks so good.

Although it costs $249, it sells like there is no tomorrow. They have sold “in the mid-hundreds of thousands” of units, according to the company. They recently released version 2.

Beauty can hurt getting a job interview if you are woman…

Or so says research done by Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner from Ariel University Centre.

They looked at what effect a photo has on a CV or resume. They sent fictional applications to over 2500 real life job vacancies. For each job offer they sent two very similar résumés, one with a photo, the other without. The photos were previously graded for attractiveness.


For men the results were inline of what was expected – hunks were more likely to get an interview if they included a photo. Not so good looking men were better off not including photos.

But the real surprise came with women. Attractive women were less likely to get an interview if they included photos. On average an attractive woman got an interview 1 out of every 11 CVs sent out, equally qualified “average-looking” women got an interview in 1 out of 7.

What happened?

Human resources departments that got the CVs and resumes were mainly were staffed by – you guessed it, women! 93% of those tasked with selection were female. The researchers’ conclusion was that old-fashioned jealousy led the women to discriminate against pretty candidates.

What to learn from it? Unless you look like Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt, it’s better to leave your photo out of your résumé altogether – that way you won’t be judged by your looks, at least not until the interview.

Beauty in web design

People will judge your business by the way your website looks, whether that’s fair or not. They will form a prejudice against you (including positive ones) in a matter of milliseconds. If it looks bad, you’re in big trouble.

Most web designers will tell you that design has a profound impact on conversions, which is an intuitive answer, but what evidence is there that supports the claim?

Health websites study

There is a study titled “Trust and mistrust of online health sites.” In it, 15 participants were directed to Google health information that was relevant to them, after they were asked to discuss their first impressions on the sites they had just visited.

Here comes the kicker: out of all the factor mentioned for rejecting and/or mistrusting a website, 94% were design related. I say that again, 94!! percent of reasons for mistrusting were design related. 94.



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Here’s what the authors of the study had to say:

“The look and feel of the website was clearly important to the participants. Visual appeal, plus design issues relevant to site navigation appeared to exert a strong influence on people’s first impressions of the site. Poor interface design was particularly associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website. In cases where the participants did not like some aspect of the design the site was often not explored further than the homepage and was not considered suitable for revisiting at a later date… The main reason that websites were rapidly rejected was due to the design of the interface. Design issues affected first impressions and could lead to the mistrust of a website.”

When talking about trusting or mistrusting an concrete site, participants mentioned design related issues 15 times more than issues related to content. 15 times more.

Participants brought out a number of specific design related problems:

  • Inappropriate name for the website
  • Complex, busy layout
  • Lack of navigation aids
  • Boring web design, especially use of color
  • Pop up advertisements
  • Slow introductions to a site (splash pages, slow-loading flash introductions, etc)
  • Small print
  • Too much text
  • Corporate look and feel
  • Poor search facilities/indexes

So, there you have it. I just gave you a list of things what not to do when designing and building websites.

Specific examples

Next let’s take a look at different web pages from different categories – one good, one bad. Now these are only examples for comparison and if we indicate that one is better than the other it doesn’t mean that the better one is actually good design or should be used as a reference design. It just means that it’s a better design

The idea of showing both is to make you understand that good design is beneficial for all websites and can be used no matter what the content of the site.

PHP and jQuery

Both of these websites are for coding languages.. PHP is a scripting language and jQuery is a Javascript Library. Looking at their websites you can see a stark difference. While one pleases the eye and makes it easy to find relevant information(jQuery), the other looks like something that was built about 10 years ago.




A-Z Lyrics and Metro Lyrics

Both of these sites are lyrics search engines. Again it’s clear how Metro simply triumphs over A-Z in pretty much all aspects. If I were searching for lyrics I know which one I would use – Metro for sure.

A-Z Lyrics:




WordReference and FreeTranslation

Next, let’s take a look at web translations. From a usability stand point FreeTranslation.com wins simply by having the results (e.g. translated text) appear almost instantly next to the original. On WordReference, the results load on a separate page.





Which store would you rather want products from?



or Hardgraft:


Beautiful product photography and beautiful presentation kicks ass and wins customers over.

Success in business online is all down to trust. You either see something that makes you trust a vendor or you don’t. Trust is also directly linked to conversions – if people leave your website because it’s so badly designed that it makes you seem untrustworthy then you’re missing out on lost prospects, customers, sales, and profits.

Good design = trust = more conversions = more money in your pocket. It’s as easy as that.

A simple technique to make websites instantly (more) beautiful

Here it is: use larger-than-life images. People love them.

Here are 3 examples of great design that use huge photos as background coupled with clean and minimal overall design elements. Large visuals are proven to capture attention.

1) Bing

We will not get into argument over Bing vs Google (Google is better). We leave that for others. Just look and marvel at this:


2) Airbnb

I like to go their homepage, look at photos on the home page and daydream about traveling…


3) Twitter

Need I say more?


“As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behaviour and inclinations translate to our online existence.”

This is a quote by Dr. Brent Coker, who studied the impact of attractive websites on human behavior. Websites that are more attractive and include more trimmings create a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in consumers.


Design matters, it matters a lot. The bar for web design keeps getting higher and higher. Don’t get left behind.

(Pro tip: Never try to save money on design. Market economy has worked well here – there’s a direct correlation between a designer’s cost and the ability to create awesome design).

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. I love that you support good design. I’ve heard so much “design” bashing the past few years, it really started to make me sad.

    I think what people forget is that there are many pieces to fit together. People tend to think in black and white, so they want all design & emotion or all usability. But, good design work needs to focus on all of these areas and more.

    I once thought of all the different skills that go into making a good website as if they were all separate jobs. I came up with a total of 18!

    You’re also right about investing in a good designer. This isn’t only because they do more beautiful work, but also because a person who’s been in the field longer is likely to cover many areas and have more experience, and hence, cost more.

    1. Avatar photo

      I see it all the time where better design (and not just visual design, but the general architecture of the site) and good user experience will make people want to spend money there. Selling something is difficult – you need all the help you can get and design is usually the 500-pound gorilla in the room.

  2. Super true in my opinion Peep. One of the things I find interesting about the Lean Startup movement is that it, in some cases, leads to an attitude of ‘just get it out there super quickly, design isn’t important!’

    Whilst this holds true early on it is important to recognise when it is time to factor design into your product as a conversion optimization and ‘customer delight’ tool!

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      At the same time I’d say a lot of the startups start off with pretty good design. Bootstrap and other frameworks make it also easier by providing decent css and so on. There was even a discussion on Hacker News “are we getting too good at design” arguing that more and more websites look good now and it’s harder to compete on design http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4925836

      I’d say it’s true that there’s more good design around and all it means is that excellent design becomes a pre-requisite if you want to play.

  3. The conclusion: good design drives out bad design ;-)
    I am plain jealous of you for thinking up the topic of this blog post. The idea that the influence of look and feel should be measurable – of course!
    Measurable and provable.
    Yet – you quote a a study from 2004 with only 15 participants. How cool would it be to do a larger study and compare conversion rates? Or if that is not doable – conversiobn rates before and after improved web designs got installed? You yourself must have a few examples up your sleeve. It would get us some hard data. Lovely ;-)

  4. Thank you! Another great read to get me motivated!

    Your website and its valuable information has kept me busy since I first found it. Keep up the great work CXL!

  5. Hi, you just published a great article “Sell More By Being Human and Building Relationships” a few days ago. When I see beautiful people on websites for services (as opposed to products), I think about stock photos and that makes the website seem phony. Any thoughts on that?

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      That depends entirely on the photo itself. Photo with beautiful people can be cheesy or not – and yes, it should always be shown in context.

    2. I agree: putting beautiful people on a website is a slippery slope. Eye tracking shows that our eyes focus on faces a lot; our brains are hard-hired to notice other people. So you have to be very deliberate about whether to put a person’s face on your site’s pages, because that could detract from your message or call to action. And if you have an especially beautiful woman on your website, it’s that much harder to look away from her.

      I just had this conversation with a client recently, and it’s something I should test on his site: a lot of live chat services use stock photography, which is a mistake in my opinion. I get a lot more confidence when I’m invited to chat with an average-looking person, because then I know that’s really who I’ll be talking to. If it’s a techie type of service, the less attractive the better because I want to chat with a geek. When the model on the chat button is too attractive, I don’t know if I’ll even be talking to someone who speaks English.

  6. Another great article Peep.

  7. Great article, an interesting read. Unfortunately my impression of the author was smeared by the many typos — design is not the only thing that leaves a permanent impression.

  8. Thats funny i saw the typos and thought that peep is very busy with client work…a sign of his success.

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      The author is actually Ott, our team member.

  9. Typos aside, I have often wondered how come that come that “sites” with poor design but with high traffic do not change their design. One such site that comes to mind is Plenty of Fish. I meant compared to other dating sites, this site’s design is rather poor. So then why does not the webmaster come up with a better design?

    Thank you for the free information Peep.

    1. Who are YOU to judge typos and what-not?? Your comment here is riddled with typo’s / grammar errors! Poor English.

  10. Dear Peep and Ott,

    Generally I really like your blog and you have some thorough and insightful posts here. However – regarding this post and your statement ‘ beautiful websites get better results’ I have to completely and utterly disagree. In fact I cannot believe I am reading this on your blog – it is so ill supported by facts and also not conversion focused.

    Imho design should support your objectives and help converting your audience. However this does NOT mean that your design has to be beautiful (whatever that may be).

    For example: if you look at Ryanair’s website. The site really hurts my eyes – it is so ugly. However it does support Ryanair’s brand of being the cheapest airline. Please also notice that they allow third party advertisements on their homepage. Walmart does the same thing. Beautiful? No way! Successful: you bet!

    Furthermore just look at three of the world’s most successful sites: Google, Ebay and Amazon. I am quite sure these sites have tested every pixels and every shade of color for better results . The outcome for them is: a minimalistic design that is focused on helping users to execute tasks quickly and easily.

    Bing is a special case. Bing is operating in a (extremely rare) market with only two players. Of course they have to do something different than Google – so they add the background image. From a usability and conversion perspective the Google design is better though for the search task: less distracting and faster loading.

    Design matters – and matters a lot. However if you select a designer or agency – ask them for (re)designs that have resulted in higher conversions. And reserve some budget for testing. If they only talk about design awards that they won, then do one thing: run!

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      “design should support your objectives and help converting your audience” – I agree 100%! And great design enables you to do it.

      I see that in my line of work day in and day out. You change nothing but design, and conversions go up. Of course, the design has to be conversion optimized.

      Ryanair’s brand is “cheap” and they do an excellent job of communicating with their website. It’s a brand thing.

      Google looks amazing and has recently totally redone their design. Read all about it http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/24/3904134/google-redesign-how-larry-page-engineered-beautiful-revolution

      Ebay has improved their design considerably over the years, as has Amazon. Both of them practice evolutionary web design improvement since they’re just so huge – they can’t do radical shifts overnight.

  11. This is my first time on your blog and i’m just BLOWN away !

    After i read this post i instantly called my team member who is a great web designer to go through your blogs posts as if his life depends on it !



  12. Of course beauty sells, beauty means perfection, confidence, high self-esteem, getting stuff for free….

    in the web it’s means wealth and trust. the average Joe anchors Big websites with unique design. so if you you’re dressed well, you must be somebody.

  13. Hi Ott,
    You made an excellent point in this post. I totally thinking of improving the design of my websites to achieve a more cleaner look.

    Read the post twice. Very well written.

    Anirudh Bahadur

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Beauty Pays: Beautiful Websites (and People) Get Better Results